CANBERRA, April 29: Australia has announced plans to spend as much as USD 581 million upgrading its military bases and expanding joint exercises with the United States, amid China’s growing military aggression.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Canberra would work with allies including Washington to focus on “pursuing peace, stability and a free and open Indo-Pacific,” South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported. “Working with the United States, our allies and Indo-Pacific neighbours, we will continue to advance Australia’s interests by investing in the Australian Defence Force, particularly across northern Australia,” Morrison said, SCMP cited agencies.
This comes days after Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton raised the alarm about the possibility of Australia becoming embroiled in a regional military conflict.
Dutton last week said Australia should be “realistic” about China’s ambitions and a conflict over Taiwan “should not be discounted”.
Sino-Australian relations have been in a downward spiral since April last year when Canberra infuriated Beijing by proposing an independent international inquiry into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Canberra has been locked in an ongoing trade war with Beijing for several months, which has seen China slapping sanctions on various Australian products.
Australia recently cancelled agreements to participate in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, terming it as “inconsistent with country’s foreign policy”.
China has dubbed Australia’s decision to scrap the controversial Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) agreement with Beijing as “unreasonable and provocative”, warning that this would further “damage” bilateral relations.