China not a threat: Australia

Updated: 2009-05-27 11:35

Australia does not see China as an emerging military threat, as some other nations like the US and Japan have feared for years, the

Australian Ambassador to China Geoff Raby said on Monday.

In an interview with China Daily, Raby said the Australian government earlier this month released a 140-page Defense White Paper, which "does not see the Chinese military as a threat".

The white paper - Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030 - outlines Australia's defense and strategic plans to spend more than $70 billion over the next 20 years to boost its military capability.

Australia will acquire long-range cruise missiles, submarines, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets and new warships, the paper says.

"The white paper addresses a range of possible scenarios for the Asia-Pacific region. It's primary focus is on ensuring that over the next 10-20 years Australia has the capacity to contribute to the maintenance of regional stability," Raby said.

The white paper has one part about "the strategic implications of the rise of China".

It says China by 2030 will become a major driver of economic activity both in the region and globally, and will have strategic influence beyond East Asia.

China will also be the strongest Asian military power, by a considerable margin. A major power of China's stature can be expected to develop a globally significant military capability befitting its size, the paper says.

The Australian ambassador, however, said: "Our white paper is not about any particular nation or source of threat. It is about the range of contingencies, which the Australian government needs to prepare for over a 20-year period So we can play our part contributing to regional peace and stability.

"Obviously China's own military expenditure is rising rapidly. We see it as it should be given the growth of China's economy and the need for further modernization of its forces.

"All this talk about 'China threat' is quite simplistic and unreasonable. It's not logical," he said, adding that Australia enjoys very close and growing military relationship with China.

Raby said Australia is looking to strengthen its naval resources mainly because of its massive coastline.

"Obviously any threat to Australia will be a naval threat, first and foremost," he said.

"What we are looking at is a shift in the disposition of our forces, with greater emphasis on our naval capacity, all of which is about defending Australia and making a contribution to peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region."

The ambassador referred to the Australia-China relationship as "excellent", with leaders from both sides meeting on a regular basis.

China has become Australia's largest trading partner in 2007.

"I think probably this year China will be our biggest trading partner by a huge margin."

Asked if the Australian government is at guard against Chinese investments, the ambassador replied: "Absolutely not."

"We don't have enough domestic capital to develop our resources. We have to have foreign investment," the ambassador said.

"Our economy is ever more deeply integrated into China's economy. Our economic future is absolutely and intimately bound up with the future of China and China's well-being. There's no question about that," he said.

At the end of 2007, the total stock of Chinese investment in Australia was only A$670 million. In the last 18 months, over A$30 billion worth of Chinese investment has been approved.

It's a phenomenal growth, he said.

"The facts show clearly Australia is very open to Chinese investment and welcomes it," he said.

Chinese firms have been keen to invest in resource-rich Australia in recent years to secure supplies of raw materials such as iron ore. But some of the deals were delayed.

Aluminum Corporation of China's investment in Rio Tinto was delayed for approval earlier this year.

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