Australian news, and some related international items

A new book argues that Australia will need nuclear weapons

Nuclear arsenal must be on Australia’s agenda, argues defence expert, SMH, By Harriet Alexander, July 1, 2019  Australia can no longer rely on the United States to protect it in Asia and should consider developing its own nuclear weapons for the event that China becomes hostile, former defence strategist and security analyst Hugh White argues in a controversial new book.

Professor White argues in How to Defend Australia the assumption that the United States would protect the nation against any attack by a major power, which has underpinned Australian defence policy since the Cold War, is no longer true as China emerges as the dominant power in Asia.

For Australia to be self-reliant, it would need to boost defence spending from 2 per cent to 3.5 per cent of GDP – or $30 billion – and consider the “difficult and uncomfortable” question of developing its own nuclear capability, said Professor White, a professor in strategic studies at the Australian National University……..

Although most think tanks and strategic policy institutes in the United States continued to assert that dominance in Asia was a strategic priority, America’s global leadership has not figured as a priority for President Donald Trump nor for the contenders to the Democrat nomination, Professor White said. ……

Professor White said Australia should only consider defensive weapons such as submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

“We need to be extremely careful about how we talk about this and very conscious of the extraordinary cost to us of acquiring nuclear weapons,” Professor White said.

“It would make us less secure in some ways, that’s why in some ways I think it’s appalling.”

The last prime minister to canvass the development of nuclear weapons in Australia was Robert Menzies in the 1960s.

Professor White, a former deputy secretary for strategy and intelligence with the Department of Defence, was dismissed as alarmist when he first foreshadowed in 2010 the demise of American influence in Asia. But the Lowy Institute’s international security program director Sam Roggeveen said he had since been proved correct.

Mr Roggeveen said the regional complications of Australia developing nuclear weapons would be huge, with Indonesia probably having to follow suit, but the logic was inescapable.

“If we ever completely decouple from the [US] alliance then it’s hard to see how we could essentially maintain our independence against China’s coercion if we didn’t have nuclear weapons,” Mr Roggeveen said.

The bipartisan political consensus on Australian defence policy is opposed to the development of nuclear weapons, and the domestic shipbuilding program would leave Australia “hopelessly vulnerable” if it ever came to a fight with China, Mr Roggeveen said.

“According to White, we are locking in a defence force for a generation that will be totally unsuited to the world we are entering,” he wrote in a book review for The Interpreter. “That’s the scandal.”

The Minister for Defence, Linda Reynolds, said: “Australia stands by its Non-Proliferation Treaty pledge, as a non-nuclear weapon state, not to acquire or develop nuclear weapons.”

La Trobe Asia executive director Euan Graham said the US alliance was more resilient than Professor White described and China had shown no signs of aggression, but he agreed Australia should think about developing its nuclear capability.

“We’re talking about 15 to 20 years acquisition timeframe and the security environment that we’re facing will almost certainly be more severe then that it is now,” Dr Graham said.

“I think Australia has to be thinking about what will be  be required to move to a nuclear weapon posture because that can’t happen overnight.”

July 2, 2019 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war

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