In a conciliatory note toward top trading partner China, Australia said Beijing's rising defence capabilities were a natural outcome of its growing economy, according to a new strategy outlined in Australia's Defence White Paper 2013, released yesterday.
"The government does not approach China as an adversary. Rather, its policy is aimed at encouraging China's peaceful rise and ensuring that strategic competition in the region does not lead to conflict," the defence strategy said.
According to foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, the white paper's welcoming attitude toward China's peaceful rise demonstrated Australia's emphasis on its ties with China.
Prime minister Julia Gullard had won much praise during her trip to China in early April in her own country for forging a new "strategic partnership" with Beijing.
Hua added China expected Australia to take the White Paper as an opportunity to produce tangible results from the partnership.
Following the release of the white paper, Gillard said that Australia welcomed the rise of China but recognised that it changed the strategic order of the region.
Welcoming the release of the white paper, which complemented Australia's National Security Strategy, released in January, Frances Adamson, Australian ambassador to China, yesterday said, Australia already had a long-standing defence relationship with China, underpinned by an active programme of practical engagement.
Building on the recently agreed strategic partnership between Chain and Australia, Australia looked forward to continuing to develop that partnership with China to the benefit of both countries and the region as a whole, he added.
Beijing had been offended with the 2009 edition said the "pace, scope and structure" of its (China's) militarisation could concern regional neighbours - straining diplomatic relations with Australia, a major trading partner.
According to analysts, the latest paper takes a significantly softer line on China, welcoming the Asian giant's rise and describing its military expansion as a "natural and legitimate outcome of its economic growth".
Also, taking note of India's emergence "as an important strategic, diplomatic and economic actor" the white paper added that the Indian Ocean was emerging as one of the world's most strategically significant areas, with Southeast Asia as its centre.
"The region's big strategic challenges will last for decades and their mismanagement could have significant consequences," it said.
The paper also stressed the importance of Australia's ties with the US, its major military partner, and noted the strengthening of the alliance since 2009 with the stationing of 2,500 Marines in northern Darwin.