The Washington Times Daily - - World -

Asia is in the “early phases of an arms race,” with many na­tions in­creas­ing their mil­i­tary forces as dan­ger­ous dis­putes on land and sea pose po­ten­tial flash points, Aus­tralian Am­bas­sador Kim Bea­z­ley warns.

Mr. Bea­z­ley, speak­ing this week at the Univer­sity of Virginia’s Cen­ter for In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, praised the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion for pre­par­ing for fu­ture con­flicts with a new Asia strat­egy. The United States and Australia agreed in Novem­ber to de­ploy 2,500 U.S. Marines to a mil­i­tary base in north­ern Australia.

He called the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s so­called “pivot” to Asia “one of the most ex­cit­ing de­vel­op­ments from the Aus­tralian point of view and one of the most ex­cit­ing in Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy,” the UVA To­day news­pa­per re­ported.

Mr. Bea­z­ley said Australia has long ad­vo­cated a U.S. strate­gic swing to­ward Asia, adding that Washington is “catch­ing up on a ma­jor shift in global geopol­i­tics” where many coun­tries are en­joy­ing strong eco­nomic growth that is fund­ing their mil­i­tary forces, es­pe­cially China’s.

“It’s In­dia ris­ing. It’s Viet­nam ris­ing. It’s South Korea ris­ing and Ja­pan still hold­ing its own,” he said.

Mr. Bea­z­ley noted the on­go­ing ten­sions in the South China Sea, where Bei­jing is claim­ing vast ex­panses of ocean as its ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters and chal­leng­ing claims by other na­tions.

“Ev­ery sin­gle coun­try in South­east Asia has a mar­itime dis­pute with its neigh­bor,” he said.

Mr. Bea­z­ley added that many coun­tries also have land bor­der con­flicts. Since 2008, dozens of sol­diers have been killed in a dis­pute be­tween Thai­land and Cam­bo­dia over an an­cient Bud­dhist tem­ple.

He also noted that the re­gion is also key to the world econ­omy.

“Fifty per­cent of global trade passes through the South­east Asian ar­chi­pel­ago,” he said, call­ing the area “vi­tal to the hap­pi­ness and pros­per­ity of the globe.”

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