Indo-Pacific military deals a 'clear deterrent' to foes: Peter Dutton

Minister for Defence Peter Dutton. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
Minister for Defence Peter Dutton. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Military cooperation and intelligence sharing between Australia and its Indo-Pacific partners will cement its position as a responsible and strong presence in the region for decades to come, the federal government believes.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton is expected to tell a Lowy Institute panel on Thursday its expansion of joint military operations and cooperation with like-minded countries in the region will be crucial as tensions rise between Australia and China.

It comes days after a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson called Mr Dutton's comments against the superpower's foreign policy a "delusional miscalculation".

Mr Dutton will point to the "rapid military modernisation, tension over territorial claims, heightened economic coercion, undermining of international law, including the law of the sea, through to enhanced disinformation, foreign interference and cyber threats enabled by new and emerging technologies" as some of the challenges contributing to the strain between neighbouring nations.

The recently-signed AUKUS deal with between Australia, the US and the UK for nuclear-powered submarine technology was an example demonstrating "the seriousness of all parties in accelerating Australia's acquisition of this critical capability", Mr Dutton will say.

It would also mark a strong deterrent for countries looking to threaten or undermine Australia's interests, the Defence Minister will add.

"We are maintaining investment in our core military capabilities and continuing to develop new ones to hold a potential adversary's forces and infrastructure at risk from a greater distance," Mr Dutton will say after midday.

"Capabilities which send a clear deterrent message to any adversary: that the cost they would incur in threatening our interests outweighs the benefits of so doing.

"The Indo-Pacific we seek has Australia as a strong and reliable partner - a nation that more than lifts its weight in securing peace in our region."

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On Tuesday, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian dismissed comments made by Mr Dutton in his National Press Club address last Friday.

The senior cabinet minister warned Australia was set for a "perilous military and economic situation" at Beijing's mercy without a strong alliance with the US.

"That surrender of sovereignty and abandonment of any adherence to the international rule of law is what our country has fought against since Federation," he said on Friday.

Mr Lijian said China firmly rejected the "irresponsible remarks", which were backed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

"He brazenly distorted China's efforts to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, mislead the Australian people on the regional situation and priorities, and incite conflict and division between countries and peoples," he said in a press conference on Tuesday.

"The remarks run counter to the trend of peace, development and cooperation in our world today and are detrimental to regional peace and stability.

"We urge certain Australian politicians to stop hyping up the 'China threat' narrative for selfish political gain and stop going further down the wrong path towards the point of no return."

One of US President Joe Biden's top security advisors, Kurt Campbell, said on Wednesday China preferred to bring Australia "to its knees" but would eventually re-engage after realising it was in their best interests.

"I fully believe that over time, that China will re-engage with Australia but it will, I believe, re-engage on Australian terms," he said.

"I think Australia - China's preference would have been to break Australia. To drive Australia to its knees. And then you know, find a way forward. I don't believe that's going to be the way it's going to play out.

"I believe that China will engage because it is in its own interest to have a good relationship with Australia."

China's Foreign Ministry also responded to Mr Campbell's comments, suggesting his position was being stoked by Australian politicians, who seemed to not want peace.

Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said countries should be abandon the "Cold War mentality" and "imaginary enemies" they had adopted.

"I want to stress that for some time, certain Australian politicians have played up the so-called 'China threat theory', hurled unsubstantiated accusations and attacks against China, provoked tensions and instigated confrontation," he said in response on Wedesday.

"We hope relevant individuals on the US side will refrain from confusing right with wrong."

This story Indo-Pacific military deals a 'clear deterrent' to foes: Dutton first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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