Source: The Australian, Thursday, December 1, 1994, p.6
By defence writer CAMERON STEWART A SUBSTANTIAL push for closer defence ties with Asia, including the major powers of China, Japan and India, is the major strategic initiative contained in the new defence White Paper. The paper calls for a major drive to increase contact, training and joint exercises with defence forces throughout the region to prevent the likelihood of misunderstandings in an increasingly uncertain strategic climate. However, it does not recommend any change to Australia's defence strategy of concentrating forces in the north of the country and combating aggressors in the "air and sea gap" before they are able to reach Australian shores. "Our defence posture gives priority to making our air and sea approaches an effective barrier to attack, and to ensuring that our forces are familiar with our northern operating environment and our equipment is optimised for conditions there," the White Paper says. It says the focus of defence for the next 15 years will be on so-cat/ed short-warning conflicts, rather than major conflicts. A major conflict was considered highly unlikely during the next 15 years, and it would be at least 10 years before any country in the region could carry out a major attack on Australia. However, the paper warns the possibility of short-warning conflict-such as limited military strikes or raids against Australia- has not diminished and would be increasingly destructive and difficult to combat. "The availability of sophisticated equipment and the increasing capacity of many countries to acquire and operate advanced military systems are raising the level of capability in the region," the paper says. "These developing capabilities, especially in naval and air forces, will increase the potential scale of short-warning conflict." The most important challenge for Australia during the next 15 years would be to adapt the Australian Defence Force to meet these "greater demands". This would require greater focus on the ADF maintaining a technological edge over the other military forces in the region. The paper says that despite these closer ties, a more complex strategic environment means that Australia cannot rely on foreign military assistance in the event of a conflict. "Australia's security is not so vital to other nations that we can assume others would commit substantial forces to our defence," the paper says. "This will become increasingly so as our strategic environment becomes more complex." The paper identifies Indonesia as our most important strategic partner in Asia, followed by Malaysia and Singapore. It says the United States will remain a key partner in Australia's defence posture and foreshadows continued co-operation on the joint defence facilities, including Pine Gap. However, advances in missile early-warning programs made it unlikely the joint facility at Nurrungar would be used in its present form after 2000. The paper calls for greater defence contacts with the large Asian powers of China, Japan and India which it says will shape the strategic climate of the Asia-Pacific into the next century.
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