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Pacific Minister Alex Hawke has flagged an expansion of the government’s “step up” military strategy, suggesting island-nation battalions could be integrated in an Australian Defence Force (ADF) unit.
Hawke said island military forces could be embedded with Australia’s new Pacific Support Team, initially called the Pacific Support Force, which was set up to cement Australia as the security partner of choice in the region.
As revealed in The Australian in July, the team will be based in Brisbane as part of the army’s 1st Division, specialising in security, humanitarian, disaster relief and peacekeeping operations.
“There’s no plan at this time to involve foreign citizens. However, we could see a situation where the island military forces from countries like Fiji or Papua New Guinea, components are added to work or go on operations with the Pacific Support Team in a humanitarian crisis or disaster,” Hawke said.
He added that he was “not closed minded” to recruiting Pacific Islanders for three to four years to the ADF, but warned there were consequences in enlisting foreign citizens.
“The Pacific’s our family. The more likely scenario at this point is co-operation with the Pacific Support Team and co-operation between forces,” he said.
The “joint operations” could begin in the short-term, especially when the next natural disaster season begins.
“We’re going to have more Pacific cadets train at Duntroon at our military facilities, our staff and command colleges. We’re going to have more people in the region, more defence personnel as defence advisers into the region,” Hawke said.
The military ramp up comes as China seeks to strengthen its foothold in the region, with a Chinese company moving to lease an entire island with a deepwater port in the Solomon Islands.
Fiji’s Defence Minister Inia Seruiratu said Australia should consider establishing a Pacific regiment in the ADF.
SOURCE: THE AUSTRALIAN/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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