BEIJING, February 26 (ChinaMil) -- Australia published its Defense White Paper 2016 on February 25, which laid out the plan to spend 195 billion Australian dollars on defense force and equipment and increase the troops to 62,400 people through 2021-2022.
The white paper contained negative comments on the South China Sea issue and China's military construction, to which the Chinese foreign and defense ministries expressed grave concern and dissatisfaction on the February 25.
Britain's Financial Times reported that according to Australia's new defense white paper, Australia will boost its annual defense spending by 80 per cent within a decade.
The defense white paper lays out plans to increase expenditure to A$59bn (US$42bn) by 2026, compared with A$32bn this year. Almost half of a total budget of A$447bn forecast for 2016-2026 will be spent on military hardware and infrastructure over the period, according to Financial Times.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on February 25 that the country will build 9 destroyers and 12 cruisers and expand the number of submarines to 24, and the builder of the 12 new submarines will be decided at the end of this year.
By 2020, Australia will buy 72 F-35S joint strike fighter jets and upgrade its armored personnel carrier. It will also purchase unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for the first time, enhance its capability of protecting the maritime sovereignty and border territory, and provide support for the troops.
Financial Times commented that the paper also commits Canberra to raise defense spending to 2 per cent of gross domestic product by 2020-21. The proposal comes despite budget pressures after the end of a decade-long mining investment boom and marks the latest stage of a developing arms race in Asia.
The big spending increase will be welcomed by the U.S., which wants its allies to shoulder more of the burden of dealing with international problems and provide for their own defense, according to Financial Times.
BBC reported that Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the white paper identified three strategic defence interests for Australia: securing Australia's northern borders and communication lines, ensuring security in its immediate region, and maintaining a "rules-based global order", particularly in the Indo-Pacific region.
It reaffirms Australia's commitment to the U.S. but expresses ambivalence on China, calling on it to be "more transparent about its defense policies.
Australian defense minister Marise Payne noted that they welcome China's economic rise, but has noticed that China is trying to seek greater influence in the Asia-Pacific region. The white paper said Australia feels particularly concerned about the high speed and large scale of China' island reclamation, and warned that the territorial disputes over the East China Sea and South China Sea have "created uncertainty and tension" in the region.
"China is seriously concerned about the contents in the white paper that touches upon the issue of South China Sea and is firmly opposed to the accusations against China " said Wu Qian, spokesperson for China's Ministry of National Defense (MND), at a press conference on February 25, adding that the South China Sea issue isn't one between China and Australia, and the freedom of navigation in that region has never been and will never be affected for all countries, including Australia.
China hopes Australia can cherish the hard-won growing momentum in bilateral relations and will not participate or engage in anything that damages regional peace and stability, Wu Qian said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying also expressed "grave concern and dissatisfaction" regarding relevant contents in the Australian defense white paper at the regular press conference on February 25.
Hua Chunying noted that China hopes Australia can take a correct and positive view on China's development and strategic intentions, take concrete steps to work with China to enhance mutual trust and jointly promote regional peace, stability and development.
Hua Chunying stressed that China also urged relevant parties to stop promoting the so-called joint military exercises and cruising and intensifying military deployments in the Asia Pacific region.
The authors are Zhao Zhicheng and Zhang Xiaofei from the Huanqiu.com.