CANBERRA, 23 NOVEMBER 2017 (THE WEST AUSTRALIAN) — Australia’s alliance with the US will become more important in the Indo-Pacific region as China’s power and influence grows, the long-awaited Foreign Policy White Paper has declared. [restrict]
The blueprint, released by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop today, reinforces Australia’s desire for the US to remain dominant in the region, while also urging China to use its power to enhance stability.
With a warning that the “stakes could not be higher” for Australia as the political balance in the region shifts, the report says that without a strongly engaged US in the Indo-Pacific, security and stability is under threat.
“Navigating the decade ahead will be hard because, as China’s power grows, our region is changing in ways without precedent in Australia’s modern history,” the report, the first Foreign Policy White Paper for more than a decade, says.
“Without strong US engagement, power is likely to shift more quickly … it will be more difficult for Australia to achieve the levels of security and stability we seek.”
On the contested South China Sea, it says competition is intensifying in the region, and maritime and land border disputes will “continue to create friction”.
The paper notes the “debate and uncertainty” in the US about the costs and benefits of its leadership, but Bishop said it was unlikely America would retreat from the Indo-Pacific.
“The United States has an enduring interest in the Indo-Pacific. The US cannot withdraw from the region without enormous costs to the US,” Bishop told The West Australian.
She highlighted the paper’s emphasis on the term “Indo-Pacific”, mirroring a shift in language by the Japanese and Americans as they emphasised India’s growing importance.
“As a West Australian I have always included the Indian Ocean nations in my thinking…now we have for the first time embraced this in a Government policy document,” she said.
Despite the commentary on the risks posed by China’s growing dominance, the report also says Australia is “committed to strong and constructive ties with China”.
“We welcome China’s greater capacity to share responsibility for supporting regional and global security,” it said.
The importance of pursuing free trade deals and open markets is also canvassed. , with the report saying a more integrated world will be more prosperous and secure than one characterised by protectionism….PACNEWS [/restrict]