Australia is uniquely placed to help manage the competition for power in the Asia-Pacific, new Defence Minister Christopher Pyne says.
The minister says the region is playing host to the “defining great power competition” of the current generation.
He says China’s economy and influence is growing rapidly, yet the United States remains Australia’s closest friend and ally.
“The Australian government is firmly committed to maintaining a constructive, positive relationship with China founded on our broad mutual interests and on mutual respect for our mutual benefit,” he told the LandForces conference in Adelaide on Wednesday.
“Our long friendship with both nations and our close economic and people-to-people links place us in a unique position to help manage this vital relationship.”
Mr Pyne said other issues he intended to focus on as defence minister were growing Australia’s military relations with Japan, India and other south Pacific nations and enhancing the nation’s military capability and maintaining its technological edge.
“Our military-to-military relations are of fundamental importance,” the minister said.
“We’re already particularly close to Japan and Indonesia. Indeed, I will visit Indonesia next month and I will host the two-plus-two minister’s meeting with Japan in Sydney in October.
“I want to bring us closer to India.
“We’re natural friends, partners and allies with a similar system of government and we have significant people-to-people links.
“And in the South Pacific, I see a natural role for Australia and for our defence force to work with and support our friends and allies.”
Mr Pyne said he also intended to continue what he had started as defence industry minister, delivering the platforms needed to take Australia’s defence force to the next level.
“We will soon be one of the most advanced defence forces of any size in the world,” he said.
“We are the 12th largest economy in the world and we are the 12th largest defence spender in the world.
“We’ve got to keep our eye on the ball to keep delivering what our troops need.”