Fear of Chinese Aggression Prompts Australian Military Buildup

Australia said Wednesday that it will invest $1 billion into building its own guided missiles, amid increasing aggression from China and global supply chain insecurity brought forth by the coronavirus pandemic.

The move will be done in collaboration with the United States, and as part of a large 10-year investment into the country's defense capabilities, the Associated Press reported.

The decision comes amid growing unease in the Pacific regarding Chinese aggression and militarism, which Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison likened on Wednesday to a "changing global environment."

"Creating our own sovereign capability on Australian soil is essential to keep Australians safe," Morrison said in an announcement.

"As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, having the ability for self-reliance be it vaccine development or the defense of Australia, is vital to meeting our own requirements in a changing global environment," Morrison added, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Australia currently relies on importing advanced missiles from other nations, including the U.S.

The nation last made its own missiles in the 1960s, when researchers in Melbourne created the Ikara anti-submarine missile and launcher, the Herald reported.

Now the nation is expected to manufacture air-to-air missiles, ground-launched missiles, and guided weapons used to defend ships, along with research on hypersonic missiles, the outlet reported.

"We will work closely with the United States on this important initiative to ensure that we understand how our enterprise can best support both Australia's needs and the growing needs of our most important military partner," Defense Minister Peter Dutton said in a statement.

Australia PM
Prime Minister Scott Morrison during Question Time in the House of Representatives at Parliament House on March 25, 2021 in Canberra, Australia. Sam Mooy/Getty Images

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Michael Shoebridge, the director of defense, strategy and national security at the independent think tank Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said the announcement was welcome news and filled a strategic gap.

"It's being driven by the two Cs, China and COVID," Shoebridge said.

He said China's increasing aggression was a big concern for Australia, as was the vulnerability of global supply chains that had been exposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

He said Australia's most pressing need was for long-range anti-ship missiles that could be fired from warships or aircraft. He said that new army fighting vehicles also needed missile capabilities.

Shoebridge said the home-built missiles would help provide a military deterrent during the current decade while Australia waited for a series of new frigates and attack-class submarines to be built.

He said that in the event of a conflict, Australia would need a lot of missiles quickly and couldn't rely on importing them on time. He said such a scenario was possible, for instance if Beijing decided the time was right to take control of Taiwan by force.

He said the announcement also fitted with the U.S. strategy of dispersing its forces and capabilities so it wasn't vulnerable in any key locations.