Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Australia Set To Join US 'Missile Defence Shield'

By Darryl Mason

Australia is now entering into the first official stages of joining the US 'missile defence shield'. The word being used is "research", but that's not how China and Russia are going to interpret the move by Australia to "develop its own missile defence system".

It's hardly a secret that the US wants its more strategically positioned allied nations to develop, in tandem, missile defence systems which can be eventually linked up to a global missile shield system, with the United States as the main beneficiary.

The expansion of the US missile defence shield into Eastern Europe has now set Russia's teeth on edge, and they've publicly pledged to counter any moves by the United States to establish missile bases, however small, close to its borders.

It will be interesting to see how China reacts to Australia becoming formerly involved in the US missile defence shield, which is widely reported to serve as both a defensive and offensive system, with the publicity centring around the 'defensive' aspects of what will eventually become the a 'missile shield' encompassing the globe.

You can dismiss most of what the federal government spokesmen have to say on just how far along Australia is with such 'missile shield' development plans, their vague explanations are unlikely to be accurate or truthful :

The Howard Government is considering the extent to which Australia will become involved in the planned missile defence system.

But a trilateral missile research agreement involving Australia, the US and Japan would further antagonise China, which already has concerns about the defence ties between Washington, Tokyo and Canberra.

There is a strong possibility the Royal Australian Navy's new air warfare destroyers, due to enter service in 2013, will eventually be equipped with SM-3 missiles, which are designed to intercept incoming missiles outside the earth's atmosphere.

Ballistic missile defence is one of the key issues being debated under the newly formed trilateral security dialogue taking place between the US, Japan and Australia.

"Japan and the United States will work together with Australia to strengthen security in the Asia-Pacific region," a senior official at Japan's Defence Ministry told the Nikkei newspaper.

Australia and the US are already co-operating far more closely on missile defence research under a 25-year agreement signed in 2004.

(Australian defence minister) Dr Nelson said recently that the memorandum of understanding would allow Australia to explore practical ways of assisting the US to build a global missile defence system.

This would allow Australia to leverage US technology and ensure mutual development of specific technologies and approaches that would underpin the missile defences of both nations.

Canberra and Tokyo are now in the process of updating an agreement on defence co-operation following the signing of a new bilateral defence agreement by John Howard and his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, inMarch.

For more on why Australia sees an important and extremely expensive need to join with the US and Japan on the development of a global 'missile defence shield', there is this thoroughly illuminating analysis from Global Research (excerpts) :
NATO is determined to expand its membership circle and to expand its mandate. Ultimately NATO is slated to become a global military force. Moreover, part of the objectives of NATO as a global military alliance is to ensure the “energy security” of its member states. What this signifies is the militarization of the world’s arteries, strategic pipeline routes, maritime traffic corridors used by oil tankers, and international waters.

The February 7, 2007 Congressional testimony of the U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates...confirms that the United States, aside from Iran, still considers China and Russia as potential adversaries. Secretary Gates told the U.S. Senate that both Russia and China posed threats to the United States: “In addition to fighting the ‘Global War on Terror,’ we also face (…) the uncertain paths of China and Russia, which are both pursuing sophisticated military modernization programs.”

The reaction of the Russians has steadily become more and more apprehensive as they realize that they are being encircled. It has been for quite some time that Russia, China, and their allies have slowly been surrounded. China faces a militarized eastern border in Asia, while Iran has virtually been surrounded, and Russia’s western borders have been infiltrated by NATO.

NATO expansion continues despite the end of the Cold War and promises from the military alliance that it would not expand. Military bases and missile facilities are encircling China, Iran, and the Russian Federation.

The military projects being propelled by the United States, several NATO allies in Europe (namely Britain, Poland, and the Czech Republic), and the Japanese for the establishment of two parallel missile shield projects, threatens both Russia and China. One missile shield will be located in Europe and the other missile shield in the Far East. These missile shields are being elevated under the pretext of hypothetical Iranian and North Korean threats to the United States, Europe, South Korea, and Japan.
So what does all this have to do with Australia?
There has been a gradual naval build-up around China. This includes an increase in the submarine squadrons of the Asia-Pacific region. An Australian report published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) has warned that an Asiatic arms race is underway. The report writes; “In an arc extending from Pakistan and India through Southeast Asia and up to Japan there is a striking modernization and [military] expansion underway.”

The U.S. Pacific Fleet is also placing greater strategic importance on the island of Guam in the Pacific Ocean as the U.S. deepens its collaboration with Australia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Japan to militarily encircle China further.The subject of North Korean ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons is presently being used as an ideal basis for further encircling China in the Far East.

Will Australian then be the third partner in this network of 'missile shield defence' bases discussed above? It certainly appears so.

Of course, it's just "research" at this stage.

There has been no official reaction from China to the news of what Australia is planning, but it will come, and it is expected to be as strong as Russia's reaction to US missile shield creep along its borders with Eastern Europe.

Australia's defence budget in 2008 is, officially, in the vicinity of $22 billion. An extraordinary amount of money for defence for a country of only 21 million people that faces no direct threat in its region.

Australia has close, peaceful and trade-rich ties with China and Indonesia. There is no reason why even long-term defence forecasters should be presuming that Australia will be facing such a threat as to be needing a multi-billion dollar missile defence system, or even to become part of the American 'missile defence shield'.

If Australia joins the US and Japan in the expansion of this 'missile defence shield', you can expect the 2009 defence budget to soar beyond $26 billion, or more.

Missile defence doesn't come cheap. Just ask the Americans. Some unofficial estimates claim that since the early 1980s, when the project was known as 'Star Wars', the United States has spent close to $1 trillion in research and development.

But be under no illusions. If Australia is going to find protection under this 'shield', it will have to pay to join the club, and it will have to pay big.

But to what benefit? Australia will become a target of Russia and China primarily because it develops such missile 'defence' capabilities, and ties them into an American system, not because we lack them.

February, 2007 : New US Spying Base Means Australia Is Pre-Committed To All Future American Wars In Our Region