Australia should join region’s arms race: PM

September 10th, 2008 - 2:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Sep 10 (DPA) Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Wednesday Australia needed more naval power to protect the country’s borders in response to a military build up in the Asia Pacific region.”We must as a matter of priority start to rebuild those skill deficits in our Navy,” Rudd told reporters when asked to clarify his warning Tuesday that there was an arms race in the region and Australia needed to beef up its defence force in response.

The prime minister told a meeting of old soldiers that in the Asia Pacific “we see a substantial arms’ build-up over time.”

He described the region as “still characterized by a number of unresolved flash points arising from unsettled territorial disputes.”

Rudd was criticized by opposition Liberal Party defence spokesman Nick Minchin for calling for an arms build up but not pledging any new money to pay for it.

In May, the Rudd government increased defence spending by 3 percent.

“If Mr Rudd is serious in what he says, they should adopt the coalition policy of committing to a fourth air-warfare destroyer, they should stop their procrastination and get on with that decision,” Minchin said.

The Australian National University’s Hugh White agreed with Rudd about militarization.

“We’ve got to remember that for the last four or five decades we’ve lived in a region of remarkable peace where the major powers have all been getting on very well,” said White, a former senior official in the Defence Department.

“You’ve got to ask yourself why are countries like China building up their armed forces as quickly as they are and I think the key reason is that we’re seeing emerging, intensifying strategic competition between the US and China for primacy, and I don’t think we can just assume the US will come out on top of that.”

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