TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwanese military researcher Paul Huang (黃恩浩) recently published a briefing highlighting the steps Australia has taken in response to China's expansion into the South China Sea and the South Pacific.
In the report, Huang, an associate research fellow at The Institute for National Defense and Security Research’s Defense Strategy and Resources Division, said that in response to China’s growing military influence in the South Pacific, Australia has strengthened security cooperation with the U.S. and India. He also stated that the Oceanic nation will continue carrying out surveillance operations in the North Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, strengthen its ability to respond to challenges related to the "gray zone," and establish a military base in northern Australia, CNA reported.
Huang said that Australia has been wary of Beijing’s southward expansion since the 1950s. In the decades since the height of the Cold War, it has established a military alliance with the U.S. and participated in many regional military exercises.
He also mentioned that Australia announced the "Pacific Step Up" strategy in 2018, leading to the establishment of the "Pacific Fusion Centre" in the Republic of Vanuatu, which opens this year. The center’s mission is to “aggregate, analyze and disseminate” information for Indo-Pacific nations to “better identify and respond to the broad scope of regional security threats,” but it is mainly focused on countering Chinese influence and the security threats Beijing poses to the South Pacific, Huang said.
According to Huang, Canberra and Washington held the 30th Australia–US Ministerial Consultations in late July of last year, in which the two sides said they would increase operations in the South China Sea to ensure regional peace and stability.
Australia is also trying to increase trade with Indonesia, India, Japan, South Korea, and other regional countries to reduce its dependence on the Chinese market, the research fellow stated. However, Huang noted that since the current trade volume between Australia and China is more than the total trade volume between Australia and other regional countries, it may not be able to shift its dependence on China in the short term.