Food and water shortages caused by global warming could lead to military conflict among the Asia-Pacific’s emerging superpowers such as China and India, the Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd, warned today.
Australia needed to strengthen its armed forces in response to an “explosion” in defence spending in Asia, he said. There was a growing arms race in the Asia-Pacific, and economic and political conflicts could lead to military confrontation, he said.
“Militarily … as it has already become economically and politically, the Asia-Pacific will become a much more contested region,” Rudd said.
Among the emerging challenges to Australia’s security were the “increased militarisation” of the region and “preparing for the new challenges of energy security and anticipating the impact of climate change on long-term food and water security,” he said. “Population, food, water and energy resource pressures will be great.”
While the Asia-Pacific would increasingly be linked economically, the Australian prime minister said, longstanding disputes – such as those between North and South Korea and between China and Taiwan – were likely to remain potential flashpoints for conflict.
Rudd announced that Australia’s defence budget would increase by 3% annually for a decade, and said strengthening the navy was the country’s military priority.
“There is an arms build-up across the Asia-Pacific region and Australia therefore must look at the long-term future at the same time as advancing our diplomacy,” he said.
Neil James, the executive director of independent thinktank the Australian Defence Association, said that due to inflation the spending increase would not be enough to maintain Australia’s current military capability, let alone expand it.
“Australia underspent on defence for about three decades, so the current increases are really a catch-up,” said James.
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