Australia said on Monday (23 January) it would accelerate plans to buy advanced sea mines to protect its maritime routes and ports from “potential aggressors” amid China’s plans to increase its influence in the Pacific region, according to various media reports.
The so-called smart sea mines are designed to differentiate between military targets and other types of ships, a defence department spokesperson said in a statement. according to Reuters. “(Australia) is accelerating the acquisition of smart sea mines, which will help to secure sea lines of communication and protect Australia’s maritime approaches,” it said. “A modern sea mining capability is a significant deterrent to potential aggressors.”
Though the defence department did not specify any further details, a report in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper on Monday said Canberra would spend up to A$1 billion ($698 million) to procure the high-tech underwater weapons. The federal government will soon announce a contract to buy “a substantial number” of sea mines from a European weapons supplier, the report said, citing unidentified defence industry sources.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told the ABC he would not “pre-empt those national security issues”.
“What we need is to make sure we have the best possible defences,” he said. “So we have looked at missile defence, we’re looking at cybersecurity, we’re looking at all of these issues.”
China has plans to step up its presence in the Pacific. Last year, it entered a security pact with Solomon Islands, raising concerns in the United States and Australia, which for decades have seen the region as their sphere of influence. Australia has been looking to boost its defence spending over the past few years, including through a 2021 deal to purchase nuclear submarines from the United States and Britain.