Peter Dutton, the Defence Minister, said the Government would work closely with the US military, as it seeks to bolster its defence capabilities. He told reporters on Wednesday: “We will work closely with the United States on this important initiative to ensure that we understand how our enterprise can best support both Australia’s needs and the growing needs of our most important military partner.” Under the plan, Canberra will choose a foreign defence company capable of building a whole series of weapon systems locally that can be deployed across the armed forces.
These will include air-to-air missiles, ground-launched missiles and guided weapons used to defend ships.
According to reports, potential manufacturers include Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, BAE Systems and Kongsberg.
There is growing disquiet in the Pacific region about China’s increasing assertiveness and military might.
The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison said: “Creating our own sovereign capability on Australian soil is essential to keep Australians safe.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, having the ability for self-reliance be it vaccine development or the defence of Australia, is vital to meeting our own requirements in a changing global environment.”
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute said that the government could spend as much as $100 billion over the next two decades on the procurement of missiles and guided weapons.
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The Australian government has been a vocal critic of China’s actions in Hong Kong and in Xinjiang, eliciting a strong rebuke from the Chinese government.
Last November, Zhao Lijian, a government spokesman, told reporters: “They have repeatedly made wrong statements and actions on issues concerning China’s core interests.”
Australia’s participation in the Quad, an informal grouping that includes the US, Japan and India, has also strained relations between the two countries.
Beijing has branded the alliance a US-led attempt to create an “Asian version of NATO”.