The 21st century is the ‘New Space Age’, where countries are vying to dominate the outer space. Many have already begun showcasing their dominance after establishing their military might on land, air, and sea.
Recently, Australia, one of the emerging powers in Oceania, announced a Space Command against China — a move to thwart the rise of the dragon in the Indo-Pacific.
With many countries joining the club to counter China, the recent Australia-United Kingdom-United States (AUKUS) grouping is meant to give these countries an edge in dealing with common interests and threats in the Indo-Pacific.
Recently, Australia with the support of the US has been making great strides in countering the supremacy which China is trying to establish a firm footprint in the region. Space is a new theater to enhance military footprints that have been eyed by many countries.
In a recent speech, Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton said, “Space will undoubtedly become a domain that takes on greater military significance in this century. Space is becoming more congested and is already contested, particularly as the boundaries between competition and conflict become increasingly blurred through grey-zone activities.”
The minister also asserted that the Australian Space Command was “a clear counter to China’s and Russia’s extra-terrestrial military ambitions.” He has also warned that China was also aiming to come up with technology, equipment, and forces that would be deployed in space, cyber operations, naval assets, and land and sea as autonomous vehicles.
Deepening US-Australia Ties
China, however, countered Australian ambitions stating that the latter wasn’t ready to build a space force. China pointed out that Australia lacked the technological capabilities to build a space force. But the real challenge for the Chinese is the deepening ties between the US and Australia.
Australia now has the support of the US and with the latter’s collaboration, it can deploy satellite monitoring systems on its territory that will scrutinize and collect intelligence. The new AUKUS framework will enable Australia to get intelligence backing from the US, according to Beijing-based military expert Wei Dongxu.
Australia is getting its first nuclear-powered submarines through AUKUS and is building a new base to host not only its naval armaments but also those from the US and UK. It has also announced plans to expand its military by 30 percent.
However, that’s not all. Australia has also been showing some resilience in the recent past. Last year, it was reported that Australia would begin building its own guided missiles in collaboration with the US.
Owing to this, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently cited the “Changing global environment”, and announced that it would partner with a weapons manufacturer to boost missile production as it would also be a fillip in creating jobs and export opportunities.
Australia’s Growing Power
Australia is quickly maneuvering its way to become a rising military power in the region and it has reasons to do so.
Australia, which long imported from its allied countries all key defense capabilities, is currently building a decoy rocket that would destroy incoming missiles.
Morrison has also said that it would initially spend one billion Australian dollars (USD 761 million) on the plan as part of a grand 10-year investment in defense and the industry related to it.
Morrison was quoted as saying, “Creating our sovereign capability on Australian soil is essential to keep Australians safe.”
The recent Covid-19 outbreak has been an additional warning sign for Australia against China. The two-year-long pandemic, the fight against which is still on, had wreaked havoc on global supply chains. The threats posed by China were palpable to Australia and ever since it has been trying to develop its arsenal.
Australia will also be building a larger military that will focus on its backyard. It will build new long-range anti-ship missiles — a move seen as a significant shift in its defense posture.
Australia is also a part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) – or QUAD with the US, India, and Japan. The main agenda of this group is to thwart the dominance that China is trying to establish in the Indo-Pacific as well as Asia.
The emergence of Australia as a military power will be a headache for China because all this time, it had only India and Japan to worry about. Now, however, it will have to politically and militarily have three fronts to defend.
The emergence of Australia as a military power will create more pressure on China as it plans to extend its tentacles to smaller countries in the region, like Taiwan.