CANBERRA - Australia will increase its defence spending by 40% over the next 10 years to purchase long-range military assets with focus on the Indo-Pacific region.

According to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Australia will invest approximately A$270 billion over the next 10 years in longer-range strike capabilities and shift its military focus to the Indo-Pacific region.

“The challenges and changing nature in the Indo-Pacific have meant we need a new approach and one that actively seeks to deter actions that are against our interests,” Mr Morrison said in a speech in Canberra on Wednesday (1/7) as quoted from his official website.

“These new capabilities will provide a strong credible deterrent in our region that will help provide the stability and security we need. We are committed to peace and stability in the region, and an open, inclusive, prosperous and sovereign Indo-Pacific.

As part of its increased spending, he added, the government will purchase 200 long-range anti-ship missiles from the US for A$800 million and consider developing hypersonic missiles.

The move is widely considered as a reaction to Australia’s ongoing tensions with China, which have escalated in recent months due to Australia’s call for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Last month Australian government agencies and service providers were targets of hacking attempts which the government attributed to a “sophisticated state-actor”, implying that China was behind the attacks.

“China is the unspoken elephant in the room,” said foreign policy analyst Sam Roggeveen, who heads the Lowy Institute’s International Security Program, as quoted from Reuters.

“While it’s absolutely right that we focus on our region, buying long-range missilesparticularly ones for land targets—could invite a response from Beijing.” (MS)