|Brendan Nicholson From: The Australian April 29, 2010 12:00AM
CHINA must be open and transparent about why it is rapidly expanding its naval forces, says Defence Minister John Faulkner.
US officials have warned that Chinese naval expansion is happening much more rapidly than had been expected, with plans for new nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers giving Beijing the power to extend its military might far from its shores.
Senator Faulkner said Australia's white paper outlined the expectation that China would develop its military capability as its economic strength grew.
"In the Australian government's view, China's military modernisation needs to be complemented by transparency to ensure regional understanding about the intent behind capability decisions," Senator Faulkner said.
He said the Australian Defence Force had increased its practical defence activities with China to allow more opportunities for open communication about respective defence approaches and to promote shared interests.
A new report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute think tank warned yesterday that China's military expansion was designed to end the US Navy's domination in the region and could make it very difficult for the Americans to come to the aid of Taiwan, Japan or other allies if a serious conflict developed.
Chris Rahman, from the University of Wollongong's Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security said it was neither China's present limited ability to conduct distant water operations nor its potential development of aircraft carriers that should be a primary cause for concern.
"Rather, it is the (Chinese military's) growing ability to deny access to East Asian seas in a crisis or conflict and so to disrupt the security system led by US Pacific Command, that most threatens regional order and harmony at sea," said Dr Rahman. "China's East Asian maritime preoccupations, not its occasional bluewater forays, are of greatest strategic significance."