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Australia sets aside $747M to upgrade military bases as international tensions escalate
Soldiers from the Australian Army’s 3rd Brigade conduct an amphibious assault landing on Langham Beach during the Talisman Saber joint military exercises between Australia and the United States in Queensland on July 13, 2017. Source: Jason Reed/Reuters.
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  • According to an announcement seen by Reuters, Australia will spend $747 million to upgrade four military bases and expand "war games" with the United States
  • An airstrip in the Northern Territory will be lengthened to accomodate larger aircraft, while firing ranges will be overhauled and new training facilities will be set up
  • The upgrades are to begin this year with an expected completion date in 2026
  • News of the upgrades follows comments from several senior officials, including Defence Minister Peter Dutton, who said a conflict with China over Taiwan "should not be discounted"
  • China claims Taiwan as its own territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under Beijing's control

According to an announcement seen by Reuters, Australia will spend $747 million to upgrade four military bases and expand "war games" with the United States.

An airstrip in the Northern Territory will be lengthened to accomodate larger aircraft, while firing ranges will be overhauled and new training facilities will be set up for defence personnel and U.S. marines.

"Working with the United States, our allies and Indo-Pacific neighbours, we will continue to advance Australia's interests by investing in the Australian ­Defence Force," the announcement said.

"Our focus is on pursuing peace, stability and a free and open Indo-Pacific, with a world order that favours freedom."

The upgrades are to begin this year with an expected completion date in 2026.

A key part of the U.S.-Australia military relationship is the biennial war games, the next of which is scheduled to begin in August this year.

Typically, more than 30,000 troops participate in the exercises off Australia's east coast.

News of the upgrades follow remarks by several senior officials, including Defence Minister Peter Dutton, who said on Sunday that a conflict with China over Taiwan "should not be discounted".

"People need to be realistic about the activity," Dutton said in a televised interview with the ABC, noting China's increasingly clear ambitions about its unification with Taiwan.

"There is militarisation of bases across the region. Obviously, there is a significant amount of activity and there is an animosity between Taiwan and China."

Likewise, Home Affairs Department Secretary Mike Pezzullo said liberal democracies must brace for war while searching for peace amid elevated global tensions.

"Today, as free nations again hear the beating drums and watch worryingly the militarisation of issues that we had, until recent years, thought unlikely to be catalysts for war, let us continue to search unceasingly for the chance for peace while bracing again ... for the curse of war," Pezzullo said in a letter to staff on Anazac Day.

However, Pezzullo's comments were met with scepticism from many Labor officials.

"I think that is pretty hyper-excited language and I am not sure our senior public servants should be using that language," Labor party lawmaker Bill Shorten told Channel 9.

Labor's foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong added that "words matter and this is not the sort of language that we generally use when we are trying to be sober and cautious."

China claims Taiwan as its own territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under Beijing's control.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said he hoped Australia was aware of the sensitive nature of the issue and could "avoid sending any wrong signal to Taiwan independence forces."

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