Australia should counter the rise of China more forcefully by dramatically increasing defense spending and pursuing new security partnerships with like-minded countries in the Indo-Pacific, the former adviser told Donald Trump’s national security, John Bolton.

Warning that a Chinese nuclear attack is an ever-present threat, Bolton said Australia could not rely on the United States to develop the policies needed to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

John Bolton, former national security adviser to former US President Donald Trump during a visit to Australia.Credit:Louise Kennerley

Noting that the United States spends almost twice as much on defense as Australia as a proportion of gross domestic product, Bolton said in an interview: “Now is the time to grow…I think Australia is in a unique position to play a more assertive role, certainly in Indo-Pacific security affairs, than it may have long been prepared to play.

Bolton said that, unlike the Cold War, Western countries such as the United States and Australia had entered a “tripolar nuclear world” where simultaneous attacks by two nuclear-armed countries – Russia and China – were possible.

“We are currently at risk of a Chinese nuclear attack,” Bolton warned bluntly.

The prominent Chinese hawk said the AUKUS security pact with the US and UK was not just a ‘huge breakthrough’ but a ‘paradigm for other things that can happen in the region “.

AUKUS nations should explore sharing nuclear-powered submarine technology with Japan while deepening defense ties with nations like India, the Philippines, Singapore and South Korea.

“There are a lot of possibilities here, but there’s no need to wait for Washington if Washington doesn’t come up with new ideas,” Bolton said. “I think for the new [Albanese] government, this is a huge opportunity.

The US record in the Pacific was not just bad but “embarrassing”, Bolton said, opening the door for China to expand its influence with nations such as the Solomon Islands.

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