A top Australian military general reportedly told forces last year that while the country sought to prevent a war with China, there was a “high likelihood” that conflict could break out.
According to details of the briefing shared by multiple sources with The Sydney Morning Herald, Major-General Adam Findlay said in a private April 2020 briefing with a group of Australia’s special forces soldiers that Beijing was already engaged in “grey zone” warfare, including cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns.
Findlay went on to say there was a “high likelihood” that the attacks could escalate into a potential war with Australia’s largest trading partner, the newspaper reported, citing sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
During the briefing, the then-special forces commander, who has stepped down but still advises the Australian Defense Force, asked his troops and officers, “Who do you reckon the main [regional] threat is?” He then answered, “China.”
“OK, so if China is a threat, how many special forces brigades in China? You should know there are 26,000 Chinese SOF [Special Operations Forces] personnel,” Findlay added, according to the Herald.
The general also told forces that if tensions with China were to escalate, Australia’s military would need to use its own cyber and space warfare capabilities, in addition to traditional air, land and sea assets.
Findlay reportedly emphasized the “need to make sure we don’t lose momentum … get back in the region,” by reinforcing Australia’s close ties with Indonesia and maintaining its presence in the region as China attempts to assert its own influence.
The report comes amid ongoing tensions in the Asia-Pacific region as Australia and the U.S. seek to curb China’s growing power, as well as its efforts to fully annex Taiwan, over which Beijing claims sovereignty.
Last month, Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton said Australia should be “realistic” about China’s military objectives and that the possibility of a military conflict over Taiwan “should not be discounted.”
More recently, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country would be expanding its war games with the U.S. in a $580 million effort to pursue “peace, stability and a free and open Indo-Pacific, with a world order that favors freedom.”
As part of the plans, the Australian government would upgrade four military bases in the Northern Territory, to be completed by 2026.
Approximately 2,500 U.S. Marines are based in the Northern Territory, and the U.S. and Australia already hold biennial joint military drills.
The Hill has reached out to the Pentagon for comment on the Herald’s report.