One of Australia’s leading defence analysts has warned the nation may have to consider the “difficult” question of whether or not to acquire nuclear weapons as part of a strategy to counter the rise of China.
Former Defence Department official and intelligence analyst Hugh White says he believes China’s inevitable rise as this region’s dominant power means Australia must urgently rethink its military posture.
“I think [a] really fundamental shift in Australia’s strategic situation is taking place,” Professor White told the ABC.
“For the first time really since European settlement of this continent we can no longer assume that we’ll have a great and powerful friend [Britain first, then America] as the dominant power in Asia, as the strongest military power in Asia.”
In his new book How to Defend Australia, Professor White suggests the current policy of not having nuclear weapons may be harder to maintain in the future.
But he concedes nuclear weapons are an unlikely proposition for Australia and says it would require extreme circumstances for the option to be seriously considered.
The suggestion that Australia could acquire its own nuclear deterrent has been swiftly shut down by the Federal Government, with Defence Minister Linda Reynolds issuing a statement saying: “Australia stands by its Non-Proliferation Treaty pledge, as a non-nuclear weapon state, not to acquire or develop nuclear weapons”.
Professor White’s book argues that overall defence spending will need to leap from 2 per cent of GDP to 3.5 per cent as China’s rise continues.
“That means we’re looking at spending an extra $30 billion a year – it’s a huge increase but what else should we expect when we move from an environment in which we’ve been very confident in American support?
“It would be a modest but significant increase in the tax take, for example to expand our tax base in order to accommodate that, or of course to cut other spending.