| Joe Kelly, Paul Maley | September 11, 2008
KEVIN Rudd had underestimated China's growing military strength and his blueprint for an expanded navy would feed Beijing's fears it is the target of a containment strategy, defence analysts said yesterday.
The head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University, Hugh White, said China already had the potential to challenge US power in Asia, particularly in a Taiwan contingency.
Professor White argued that Beijing was sharpening its capability to target American carriers and the Prime Minister "underestimates how serious that challenge is".
Professor White's colleague at the Lowy Institute, Malcolm Cook, said Mr Rudd's plans for a naval build-up to counter increased security competition in Asia risked feeding China's fear it was the target of a military and political containment strategy.
Dr Cook, the institute's East Asia program director, said regional reaction to Mr Rudd's speech to the RSL national congress in Townsville on Tuesday would be strongest in China.
He said Beijing would probably interpret the speech as being a forerunner of the Rudd Government's defence white paper, due in November but likely to be delayed until early next year.
"Publicly, there might be some comment but it will probably be pretty mild; privately, there might be more pointed questions," Dr Cook told The Australian.
Australia Defence Association director Neil James was more positive. He said Mr Rudd's speech was a repudiation of the Hawke and Keating defence legacy, which oversaw a narrowing of Australia's defence capabilities in the service of the Defence of Australia doctrine.
Mr James said Mr Rudd's approach was a step forward for Labor. 'As part of the white paper process, it has appeared that Labor has moved on from the DOA view of the world," he said.
Opposition defence spokesman Nick Minchin said Mr Rudd was building on inroads made by the Howard government.
Lol......China's Fears..... ;P