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Strategic Posture Review: Australia

Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013

After winning the October 2013 elections, the new Coalition government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott inherited the difficult task of readjusting Australia’s strategic and defense policy. Power shifts in Asia have already begun to challenge fundamental aspects of Australia’s strategic posture. The rise of China and the relative decline of the U.S. position in the Asia-Pacific region potentially put Australia in a difficult position: that of maintaining close relations with both its major ally, the United States, and its most important trading partner, China. If Sino-U.S. relations become even more competitive, Canberra could find itself between a rock and a hard place. Consequently, some analysts have asked if Australia might face a “choice” between Washington and Beijing, and questioned whether Canberra’s current approach of “having its cake and eating it, too” is sustainable, particularly if its U.S. ally expects Australia to share a greater burden in regional security.

However, it is not just China’s growth that poses tough questions for Australia’s political elites. Key countries in the immediate Southeast Asian neighborhood are also undergoing significant economic and, to a lesser extent, political change. In particular, Indonesia’s current modernization is of central interest for Australia. It is demographically far bigger than Australia and is projected by some to join the ranks of the world’s 10 largest economies by 2030. Other Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam are also growing exponentially. Finally, India, Japan and increasingly South Korea aim for a more active role in regional security affairs. As a result, Australia’s 2013 defense white paper expects the emergence of a more multipolar, more competitive Asia. ...

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