Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (L) and Richard Marles, deputy prime minister and minister for defense, on Monday announced drastic changes to the nation's military. Photo courtesy of Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese/Twitter
April 24 (UPI) -- Australia on Monday unveiled its new defense strategy that states dramatic reforms are needed so it can meet the growing military challenge posed by China in the Indo-Pacific region.
Capabilities to precisely strike longer-range targets, locally manufactured munitions, improved operational abilities from Canberra's northern bases and deepened diplomatic and defense partnerships are some of the reforms that were put forward in Monday's publication of Australia's Defense Strategic Review, which sets the agenda for the Oceania nation's defense posture and structure.
The report states the current structure of the Australian Defense Force reflects "a bygone era" that "does not adequately address our new strategic environment," with what the administration of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese presented Monday being "the most substantial and ambitious approach to defense reform ... since the Second World War."
"This represents a document for today and Tomorrow," Albanese said during a press conference Monday. "It demonstrates that in a world where challenges to our national security are always evolving, we cannot fall back on old assumptions. We must build and strengthen our security by seeking to shape the future rather than waiting for the future to shape us."
The report was published amid growing tensions in the Indo-Pacific region as China continues to flex its military might.
The document calls China's military build-up "the largest and most ambitious of any country since the end of the Second World War," which has occurred "without transparency or reassurance to the Indo-Pacific region of China's strategic intent."
"China's assertion of sovereignty over the South China Sea threatens the global rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific in a way that adversely impacts Australia's national interest," the report states. "China also engaged in strategic competition in Australia's near neighborhood."
It states the region is now home to strategic competition, the intensity of which should define this current era, as the United States is "no longer the unipolar leader of the Indo-Pacific."
China's military push occurs as its already fraught relationship with the United States further frays and its relations with Australia continue to sour as Canberra has voiced opposition to Beijing's human rights violations, specifically its treatment of its Muslim minority Uyghur citizens and Hong Kong, as well as its alleged attempts to cover up the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Richard Marles, deputy prime minister and minister for defense, told reporters that the document calls for the first recasting of the military's mission in 35 years to emphasize areas that far exceed its borders.
Its mission will first focus on defending the nation and the immediate region but will also seek to deny any adversary that seeks to project power against Australia and its interests as well as provide collective security of the Indo-Pacific region, defend Australia's economic connection to the region and the world and provide for the maintenance of the global rules-based order.
"We need to have a defense force, which has the capacity to engage in impactful projection through the full spectrum of proportionate response," Marles said.
Among the six initial priorities of the government include the development of nuclear-powered submarine capability, which is currently being pursued under an agreement it entered with the United States and Britain.
Another priority will be to increase the military's weaponry range from its current roughly 25 miles to an initial 300 miles with missiles and munitions produced domestically.
"This is about giving the Australian Army the firepower and mobility it needs into the future to face whatever it needs to face," Marles said.
A third priority will be to hasten the transition to new technologies, with a fourth being investing in the recruitment and retention of military personnel. The fifth and sixth priorities are for the military to operate out of its northern bases and to improve defense cooperation with allies in the Pacific.
Concerning the United States, the report says Canberra's alliance with Washington will remain central to its security and strategy as the North American nation "will become even more important in the coming decades."