AU Military Looking To Revamp Weapons, Marles Warns of Economic Coercion

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Australia is currently pursuing significant changes in its military strategies. Many experts believe this act is the most critical military build-up since World War Two. But the Australian Deputy Defence Prime Minister warns that this may bring economic challenges shortly.

According to Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles, the country is heavily investing in new weaponry to address the changing threats. The Defence Strategic Review (DSR) findings stated that the government is ready to invest billions of dollars towards domestic guided-weapon manufacturing and the AUKUS nuclear submarine program.

Marles added that the DSR also identifies the need for Australia to focus on marine equipment instead of land-based capabilities as the threat landscape is evolving. However, the deputy defence prime minister noted that the country’s most pressing challenge does not come in the form of invasion or war.

“The threat is not that we’re about to be invaded, but our exposure to economic coercion and coercion from an adversary is greater, and the potential for that coercion going forward is much more significant. And that’s where the threat lies, and that’s why we need to re-posture for that,” Marles noted.

This is a challenge, significantly, when Australia’s trading relationships are growing. The meeting between the Australian and Chinese Prime Ministers on the sidelines of the 2022 G20 Summit was the mark of renewed trading relationships between the two countries.

Many meetings across different industries have been held after the summit, a clear signal that Australia and China are working together to renew their partnership. Pat O’Shannassy, chief executive officer of Grain Trade Australia, noted, “People are starting to get on the front foot. Trade is ultimately about relationships; people are getting those relationships in place.”

But recent developments between the two countries lead them back to their frozen relationships. The DSR may force economic coercion, with Marles adding that “When you look at how great power contest is playing out, and particularly in our region, you look at that military build-up, and you look at our exposure to that through a much greater economic connection to the world, we are much more vulnerable to coercion than we’ve ever been before.”

Penny Wong, Australia’s foreign prime minister, recommended that Australian exporters not rely solely on Chinese markets but instead diversify their markets. This, in tandem with the DSR, may give a wrong impression to the Chinese, and that is why Marles recommends that the Albanese government be cautious with their next steps.

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