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Defence Strategic Review: China responds by accusing Australia of ­hyping up ‘threat narrative’

China has responded to the Defence Strategic Review by accusing Australia of ­hyping up the Chinese “threat narrative” and asserting it doesn’t pose a risk to any country.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the Australian Government was using Beijing as a scapegoat to boost its military power after a declassified version of the review was released, warning of the Asian superpower’s growing threat to regional stability.

“China pursues a defensive national defence policy and stays committed to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific and the wider world,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said.

“We do not pose a challenge to any country. We hope certain countries will not use China as an excuse for military build-up and will refrain from hyping up the China threat narrative.”

But on Tuesday Defence Minister Richard Marles said Australia was not exaggerating the threat.

“Obviously, that’s not what we’re seeking to do. At the heart of (the review) is providing or making our contribution, along with our partners, to the collective security of our region, of the Indo-Pacific, and that’s really where Australia is coming from,” Mr Marles told 3AW Radio.

“What we want to do as a nation is to provide and to make our contribution to the collective security of our region — understanding that that’s really where the defence of Australia lies.”

The US Defence Department welcomed news of the shake-up.

“It is the latest example of the pivotal role Australia plays in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific, including through participation in AUKUS and the Quad,” US Secretary of Defence Lloyd J. Austin III said.

Camera IconRichard Marles says the Government wants to keep up defence recruitment for future demands. Credit: AAP

“The DSR demonstrates Australia’s commitment to being at the forefront of incorporating new capabilities for the Australian Defence Force to better enable Australia to meet regional and global challenges, as well as to our unbreakable alliance, which has never been stronger.”

The review uses sharper language on China than the 2020 strategic update, pointing to its military build-up, assertion of sovereignty over the South China Sea and strategic competition in the region.

“Intense China-United States competition is the defining feature of our region and our time,” it says.

“Strategically, we may have already entered a decisive period for the Indo-Pacific. This necessitates a managed, but nevertheless focused, sense of urgency. It is clear that a business-as-usual approach is not appropriate.”

It also notes the Australian Defence Force will operate new land-based missile systems and focus on amphibious operations in the island chains to the north of the nation.

In a message recorded after the review’s release, Chief of Army Lieutenant General Simon Stuart told ADF members there would be challenges to become “future-ready” with a more lethal military to handle China’s expansion.

“There will also be changes to the scale and scope of our capabilities, the sequence and pace of delivery, how we’re organised, how we train and the resources that will be available to us,” General Stuart said.

“Things would be different and along with the opportunities there will be some challenges.”

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