Source: The Australian, Thursday, December 1, 1994, p.6


Call for closer contacts with region

 
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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