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Australia's military support of the US in the Asia Pacific against China is typical of regional concern

By Chris Lewis - posted Tuesday, 7 March 2023

A recent opinion piece by Binoy Kampmark on On Line Opinion when expressing concern that US forces in Australia may have delivery systems capable of deploying nuclear weapons, states:

This ingloriously subservient status to Washington has been laid bare yet again, and along with that, the increasingly likely prospect of being targeted in any future conflict that involves the United States. Hardly a responsible state of affairs, and one on the verge of being treasonous.

While debate is critical within any liberal democracy, it is ridiculous to imply that Australia is "being turned into a US garrison state" as if there is no reason for Australia to participate in a wider military counter to Chinese expansionary aims.


Although the potential use of nuclear weapons leaving from Australian destinations cannot be ruled out as a means of last resort, the Australia-US security relationship is very important at a time when many countries are concerned by the rise of authoritarian China.

It is China alone which is causing the military fightback by many Asian Pacific nations, including the need for many regional sites that can host effective defence weaponry in line with China's arsenal of nuclear weapons roughly doubling to more than 400 warheads since 2020 according to a 2022 US Defense Department report.

As of 2021, defence spending amongst Asia Pacific nations, excluding China and Russia with $293 billion and $65.9 billion (US dollars throughout article), included the US with $801 billion, India $76.6 billion, Japan $54.1 billion, South Korea $50.2 billion, Australia $31.8 billion, Canada $26.4 billion, Taiwan $13.0 billion, Singapore $11.1 billion, Indonesia $8.3 billion, and Thailand $6.6 billion.

Most Asian Pacific nations know full well that their best option is to support a liberal-minded world order led by the US, as seen by further increases to their defence budgets and/or cooperation with the US to address the aggressive behaviour of China.

The idea that Australia should not support the US is ludicrous.

With Australia much closer to any potential conflict zone in the Asia Pacific, with most attention on China's claim to take Taiwan by force if necessary, it is completely logical that Australia would fulfil its role within the US-Australia security relationship.


But let us not rest on my biased Western perspective which still believes that Western leadership is crucial to the world, superior to any other alternative offered by authoritarian powers.

In recent times, prior to the rise of a more aggressive China during the last ten years, with the increasingly global nature of the international economy making China much more important for supply chains and manufacturing, many nations depended on US military might and foolishly hoped that authoritarian China would be satisfied with acquiring economic might.

But now many of these same nations, still expecting the US to remain a Pacific power and Asian stakeholder, are responding to China in many forms knowing full well that a world led by western influenced institutions is still their best option against China which is widely recognised by most countries to be seeking military and economic domination.

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About the Author

Chris Lewis, who completed a First Class Honours degree and PhD (Commonwealth scholarship) at Monash University, has an interest in all economic, social and environmental issues, but believes that the struggle for the ‘right’ policy mix remains an elusive goal in such a complex and competitive world.

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