A joint report by the Australian National University and Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies has highlighted growing concerns about Beijing’s behaviour in the South China Sea and the risk of Australia being drawn into a potential military conflict.
“Chinese operations in the Indian Ocean are also a growing concern, particularly for Australia,” the report said.
“Australia’s geographic isolation has long been one of its strongest defences, as has been the case for the United States.
“Yet, China’s growing blue water navy and its long-range missile forces threaten to put Canberra within range of the People’s Liberation Army.”
Tony Abbott has refused to be drawn on the findings.
“I’m very pleased that our friendship with China is getting stronger and stronger all the time,” he told reporters.
“I would rather focus on the strength of the friendship rather than on hypothetical possibilities in many, many years time.
“We have the closest possible relationship including a security relationship with the United States, strong friendships with China, strong security relationships with the United States — this is the best way to ensure the peace, security and prosperity of our region.”
The report, titled The ANZUS Alliance In An Ascending Asia, is being launched today and coincides with the biennial Talisman Sabre joint military training exercises between the United States and Australia in the north.
This year’s training event involves up to 30,000 personnel from Australia, the United States and for the first time Japan.