Sun. Dec 5th, 2021

Secretary of Defense Peter Dutton has spoken at the National Press Club.  Photo: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Secretary of Defense Peter Dutton has spoken at the National Press Club. Photo: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

The Chinese embassy has issued a derogatory statement after Defense Secretary Peter Dutton delivered a speech warning that Beijing was increasing its military might and engaging in “increasingly alarming activities”.

During a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra, Mr Dutton warned of the consequences of Beijing taking back Taiwan, saying that any conflict with China in the Indo-Pacific would be “catastrophic”.

“If Taiwan is conquered, the Shenkakus are definitely the next,” Mr Dutton said, referring to a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

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He said that in the absence of “back pressure”, the Chinese government would become the sole security and economic partner for the Indo-Pacific countries.

“Now it is not just a dangerous military and economic situation for our country, but for so many more,” he said.

The Chinese embassy in Australia was quick to fire back, issuing a statement on Thursday afternoon accusing Dutton of “preaching his quixotic misunderstanding of China’s foreign policy”.

The statement said he “distorted China’s efforts to protect sovereignty and territorial integrity” and “misleaded the Australian people about regional situations and priorities and promoted conflict and division between peoples and nations”.

“It is inconceivable that relations between China and Australia will gain momentum or that the overriding interests of regional countries, including Australia, will be better promoted if the Australian Government bases its national strategy on such a visionless analysis and outdated mentality,” statement said.

During his speech, Mr Dutton said that China’s naval strength had more than tripled in size over the last two decades alone to become the largest navy in the world with 355 ships and submarines.

He said all major cities in Australia, including Hobart, were within range of China’s missiles, which were expected to reach between 700 and 1,000 nuclear warheads in the next decade.

Peter Dutton said a conflict in the Indo-Pacific would be catastrophic.
Peter Dutton said a conflict in the Indo-Pacific would be catastrophic.

“Today we are facing the most significant change in our strategic environment since World War II,” he said.

“Again, Australia is in a region at the center of global strategic competition, a region that is witnessing a military build-up of a scale and ambition that has historically rarely been associated with peaceful results.

“Along with people in the Indo-Pacific and the world, the Australians have been following along, and we have been following very closely how the Chinese government has engaged in increasingly alarming activities.”

Sir. Dutton said he had spoken many times with Prime Minister Scott Morrison about how “we live in the echoes of the 1930s”.

“There are many men and women who, as parents, sent their children into conflict in the near region and throughout Europe and many other parts of the world, and those soldiers and the veterans suffered and paid a great price, and I will never see it repeated itself, “he said.

“The world would be foolish to repeat the mistakes of the 1930s.

“We live in times of high tension, but the region is not on an inevitable path to conflict.

“But only if all countries with good will ensure that together we do our utmost to steer clear of the cliff.”

Peter Dutton warned that all major cities were within range of China's missiles.
Peter Dutton warned that all major cities were within range of China’s missiles.

He said conflicts should be avoided, but “satisfaction or reconciliation is a tactic that is a dead end of strategic disaster or worse”.

“If the conflict were to arise through misunderstandings, through miscalculations or through hostility, it would be catastrophic for all of us,” he said.

“Australia’s position is very clear. Conflicts must be avoided.

“I think we should call for actions that are destabilizing and contrary to Australia’s interests in our region.

“We are doing this because the Australian people expect it from their government, but we are also doing it because we need to reinforce voices that have been silenced by coercion but who are nevertheless seeking the same peace and stability as us.”

Sydney

Ashleigh Gleeson is a crime and justice reporter for The Daily Telegraph.

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