Australia's $270b commitment after China displays 'very real' threat

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·Associate News Editor
·2-min read
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Defence Minister Richard Marles says Australia is "committed" to its $270 billion defence spending, including a nuclear-powered submarine deal, over the next decade as China's ever-growing presence takes centre stage in the first few weeks of Labor's reign.

Mr Marles' remarks come days after he said a Chinese fighter plane intercepted an Australian aircraft in a "dangerous" move that put lives at risk.

While Beijing appeared to be pushing for a reset in Sino-Australian relations following Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's election victory, there has since been stern words from both sides indicating a turnaround may not be as simple as first thought.

Defence Minister Richard Marles says Australia is committed to the nuclear-powered submarine deal signed by the Morrison government last year. Source: AAP
Defence Minister Richard Marles says Australia is committed to the nuclear-powered submarine deal signed by the Morrison government last year. Source: AAP

China has long bemoaned Australia's AUKUS security pact with the UK and the US, warning the move to house such submarines in the region sets a dangerous precedent for nuclear proliferation. Beijing has repeatedly called on Australia and its allies to ditch their "Cold War mentality".

And while Mr Marles told The Sydney Morning Herald the Albanese government "won't be beating our chests" when it comes to China, Canberra's vocal commitment to the deal is a strong indication to Beijing the new government will not kowtow to any pressure from Beijing.

Albanese government committed to countering China's threat

Mr Marles said the Albanese government was fully aware of the "very real, very present" threat posed by China however would avoid such brash rhetoric his predecessor Peter Dutton regularly used when addressing China's threat.

“This is much less about chest beating than making sure you do the work to build our capability,” he told The Australian.

China has its own fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. Source: Reuters
China has its own fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. Source: Reuters

Mr Albanese warned hours after being sworn in as prime minister that the relationship would remain difficult, stressing it was China who had changed, and not Australia.

Mr Albanese described a Chinese J-16 aircraft flying dangerously close to a RAAF P-8A Poseidon conducting routine surveillance in international airspace on May 26 an "act of aggression".

While China's foreign ministry did not address Australia's condemning of the incident, Chinese state media did not hold back, branding such claims as "groundless" and lacking evidence.

Earlier this year the Morrison government slammed a similar encounter off the coast of the Northern Territory between a warship and Australian aircraft, however Beijing refuted claims of wrongdoing, releasing images of the altercation.

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