When Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull launched the 2016 Defence White Paper one month ago he said that 'it sets out a clear eyed and unsentimental appraisal of our strategic environment, the threats and the opportunities.' Last night’s Lowy Lecture, delivered by Mr Turnbull, was an attempt — perhaps overdue — to put his personal stamp on that appraisal.
Tony Abbott’s weekend speech in Tokyo, titled 'Against Strategic Pessimism’, was unsurprising in its robust advocacy of Australia’s 'special relationship' with Japan, based on shared values.
Australian commentary [eg James Curran, Hugh White, Greg Sheridan, Tom Switzer] on Malcolm Turnbull’s inaugural visit to Washington last week was focused, naturally enough, on the dynamic that a new leader brings to the alliance. Commander Adm. Harry Harris with Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull at Pearl Harbour (Photo courtesy PACOM Command)
Media attention since North Korea's nuclear test yesterday has been focused on the veracity of its claims to have exploded a thermonuclear device or 'hydrogen bomb'. This is understandable given that a thermonuclear weapon has a destructive power many orders of magnitude greater than a purely fission-based device.
China has at last formally acknowledged that it has a new aircraft carrier under construction, the first to be built in China and the second in the People's Liberation Army-Navy's order of battle. The PLA Navy appears to have embarked on a substantial carrier program, probably with the intention of creating four and perhaps up to six carrier battle groups (Chinese commentators have publicly acknowledged the need for at least three units in order to have an effective carrier capability).
This is the third in a series of posts marking the launch of A Larger Australia, the book of the 2015 Boyer Lectures, by Lowy Institute Executive Director Michael Fullilove. In his final Boyer Lecture 'The Birthplace of the Fortunate', Michael Fullilove advocates for a more capable and muscular Australian Defence Force (ADF).
Last Thursday, The Australian newspaper ran an editorial, 'Strengthening links with China'. This followed its front-page coverage of the visit to Canberra by China's Chief of General Staff Fang Fenghui, for annual talks with Chief of Defence Force Mark Binskin and Department of Defence Secretary Dennis Richardson.
Australia and its Navy are in an awkward spot, caught between China and the US in the full glare of a global media spotlight shone on the South China Sea. Two Royal Australian Navy ANZAC frigates are due to arrive tomorrow in China's naval base Zhanjiang for a port visit, ahead of live-fire exercises with the PLA Navy's South Sea Fleet scheduled to start on Monday.
So, the much-heralded US freedom of navigation (FoN) operation in the South China Sea has finally seen daylight. The designated lead, the USS Lassen, is a guided missile destroyer which has already been patrolling the South China Sea in recent weeks.