Minister for Defence Peter Dutton issued a stark rebuke to China’s ongoing militarisation of space, suggesting that the nation has employed similar coercive tactics as have been observed in the South China Sea.
Speaking to The Australian this week, Minister for Defence Peter Dutton accused China of exploiting the space domain to develop military advantages over their adversaries and pledging to deepen Australia-US space relations in the face of a belligerent China.
“The space race is on and assured access to space is critical to the Australian Defence Force’s warfighting effectiveness [through] situational awareness, delivery of real-time communications and information,” Minister Dutton told The Australian.
Minister Dutton likened China’s space strategy to that of the South China Sea, where China has sought to extend its sovereignty into neighbouring countries’ exclusive economic zones through island building and similar measures.
“I think their conduct is not dissimilar to what we are seeing on water in the East China Sea, on the land border with India and in their clashes with the Philippines and with Vietnam and others,” he continued.
Minister Dutton explained that the Commonwealth has invested some $7 billion to support and grow Australia’s space industry, developing an array of both military and commercial space-based capabilities.
“We are making in the investment in early warning systems and the ability to protect our equities in space which has obviously significant civilian applications because there is a heavy reliance on GPS on satellite communications, imagery, assistance provided during the bushfires and the pandemic, all of that relies on a reliable presence in space,” he said.
This week’s comments follow a war of words between Minister Dutton and the PRC.
In late November, the minister warned against pursuing a policy of appeasement with Beijing, suggesting that the current political climate “have echoes of the 1930s”.
“In my view, acquiescence or appeasement is a tactic that ends in a cul-de-sac of strategic misfortune or worse,” Minister Dutton said at the National Press Club in late November.
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In response to his comments, PRC-mouthpiece the Global Times took a personal aim at the Defence Minister.
“Dutton, a none too bright minister in an incredibly pedestrian and what many see as a corrupt government, appeared to have been briefed by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) that is partially funded by US arms manufacturers,” it was reported in the Global Times.
“The remainder of its funding comes from the US Embassy and the Australian government. It is anything but independent.”