Australia lures soldiers with bonus to stay in military amid tensions with China

The Australian government has announced that military personnel who will stay in uniform after completing the three-year compulsory service will receive A$50,000 ($33,165), amid rising tensions between its ally the US and China.

Referring to a retention problem, Defense Minister Richard Marles said on Tuesday the bonus comes as the number of defense personnel was 3,400 below the positions funded.

Personnel who commit to the military for another three years after they complete their initial service will be eligible for the retention bonus.

“We have an issue in terms of making sure that we are recruiting the number of defense force personnel that we need,” Marles told reporters in Canberra.

The announcement comes days after a Defense Strategic Review found Australia’s defense posture was “not fit for purpose” amid rising rivalry between the US and China.

Marles said the review had made clear Australia’s defense posture “is no longer fit for purpose, by virtue of the complexity of the strategic circumstances that we face”.

“We’re now working through with a sense of controlled urgency to reshape our defense force,” he added.

The review released last week also recommended prioritizing long-range precision strike capability, domestic production of guided weapons, and diplomacy.

The recommendations came as the review said America was no longer the “unipolar leader of the Indo-Pacific”, and that intense competition between the US and China was defining the region, and that the major power competition had “potential for conflict”.

Relations between China and Australia have been strained since 2018 when Australia became the first country to ban Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies Co. from its 5G wireless networks.

Ties with Beijing got even worse during the COVID-19 pandemic after Australia called for a probe into the origins of the coronavirus, toeing the line of US leaders.

The growing Chinese influence in the Pacific has also added to the intense rivalry between the two sides, especially China’s security cooperation with Solomon Islands government.

Amid a long rivalry with China, Australia has in the past, along with Japan, joined provocative maneuvers by the US in the South China Sea in the Pacific Ocean.

Beijing claims sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea. Many regional countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia, are involved in territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea. Australia, however, is not among them.

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