Australian PM unveils first national security strategy

Canberra, Jan 23 (IANS) Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard Wednesday unveiled Australia's first national security strategy, saying Australia's primary national security focus will be on the Asian region in a post 9/11 era.

Launching the national security strategy at the Australian National University in Canberra, Gillard said this strategy was released "as Australia enters a new era of national security imperatives" after the anti-terrorism war achieved many successes such as the killing of Al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden, reported Xinhua.

Gillard said Australia's principal national security focus will be on its own region, as the global economic and strategic centre-of-gravity continues to move east, bringing great opportunities but also risks and challenges that must be managed.

She also stressed that it will be an era in which the behaviour of states, not non-state actors, will be the most important driver and shaper of Australia's national security thinking.

Gillard also pledged to put weight on diplomacy, which will be critical "as we and our friends and partners in the region strive to master the complexities and new dynamics of a multipolar world".

She said the strategy had identified risks including traditional and familiar risks such as espionage and foreign interference, state-based conflict and coercion.

"The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, specifically Iran's nuclear program and North Korea's continuing missile and nuclear programs, are serious threats to world peace and regional stability," she said.

Other risks are terrorism and violent extremism and an increasing burden from serious and organized crime.

The strategy identifies three areas for the federal government to focus on over the next five years: effective partnerships, cyber security and enhanced regional engagement.

Gillard said the government would develop a national security capability plan to complement the defense capability plan.

The government would establish by the end of 2013 a new Australian Cyber Security Center.

"Australia is an attractive target for a range of malicious cyber actors, from politically-motivated hackers and criminal networks to nation states," Gillard said.

"Malicious cyber activity will likely be with us for many decades to come, so we must be prepared for a long, persistent fight."

The focus on enhanced regional engagement reflected the shift in global strategic and economic activity to the region around Australia, Gillard said.

She noted the relationship between China and the US would "determine the temperature of regional affairs in coming decades" but was optimistic about their ability to manage change in the region.

"The remarkable growth we see in Asia could not have happened without an environment of relative peace and stability," she said.

"Continuing and deepening that climate of relative peace and stability is at the forefront of Australia's national security agenda."

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