Australian security to focus on nations

By Max Blenkin, AAP Defence Correspondent –

A KEY driver of Australia’s new national security strategy is focusing on the behaviour of other nation states rather than terror groups.

 The strategy also says China’s relationship with the US is set to determine the temperature of regional affairs.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says Australia has emerged from what’s been termed the 9/11 decade, shaped by terror attacks in the US on September 11, 2001, in Bali in 2002 and the ensuing military deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.

But now Osama Bin Laden is dead, al-Qaeda senior leadership fractured, work in Iraq completed and Afghanistan is soon to take full responsibility for its own security.

Ms Gillard said terrorism dramatically changed the way national security was conceptualised and undertaken.

She said the principal national security focus would now be on the Asia-Pacific region, as the global economic and strategic centre-of-gravity continued to move east, bringing great opportunities but also challenges.

“It will be an era in which the behaviour of states, not non-state actors, will be the most important driver and shaper of Australia’s national security thinking,” she said.

Ms Gillard said Asia was changing as economic growth produced shifts in the established strategic order.

“But it also remains true that it is the relationship between China and the United States that more than any other will determine the temperature of regional affairs in coming decades,” she said.

“We remain optimistic about the ability of China and the United States to manage change in the region but their relationship inevitably brings with it strategic competition as China’s global interests expand.”

The new strategy builds on the national security statement, released by former prime minister Kevin Rudd in 2008, that identified national security objectives and surveyed the national security outlook.

It says there’s a risk of malicious cyber attack, a persistent threat from terrorism and increasingly sophisticated criminals but a low likelihood of major power war.

However, there would likely be ongoing low-level instability in Australia’s region and an increasing influence of legitimate non-state actors such as private companies.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said Islamic terrorism was a more pressing security concern than the rise of China, which had been extremely good for Australia.

“Inevitably as China becomes more economically powerful, it will become more militarily powerful, and that does raise some issues,” he told reporters in Brisbane.

“But in the end the most important security threats that we face, I suppose, are the obvious ones, Islamist terrorism, and we live in an unstable world.”

Leading strategic analyst Paul Dibb, emeritus professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University, said the strategy gave appropriate consideration of China, seeing it in neither pessimistic nor optimistic terms.

He said it recognised China was a rising power with its economy bound to the US, Japan and Australia.

“We shouldn’t frighten ourselves silly about China’s military power. It’s not the former soviet union and it’s certainly not the US by any measure,” he said.

“This is not a nasty, territorially expansionist communist power. Its leadership is communist in Leninist style but it is a rabidly capitalist country and that is to our advantage.”

Source: Australian Associated Press

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