The Chinese embassy issued a scathing statement after Defense Secretary Peter Dutton delivered a speech warning that Beijing was stepping up its military might and engaged in “becoming alarming activities”.
Speaking to the National Press Club in Canberra, Mr Dutton warned of the consequences of Beijing’s take back of Taiwan and said any conflict with China in the Indo-Pacific would be “catastrophic”.
“If Taiwan is taken, the Shenkakus are definitely next,” Dutton said, referring to a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.
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.
“That is not only a dangerous military and economic situation for our country, but for so much more,” he said.
The Chinese embassy in Australia was quick to fire back, releasing a statement Thursday afternoon accusing Mr Dutton of “preaching his quixotic misunderstanding of China’s foreign policy”.
The statement said it “disrupted China’s efforts to protect sovereignty and territorial integrity” and “misled the Australian people about regional situations and priorities, fueling conflict and division between peoples and nations”.
“It is inconceivable that the relationship between China and Australia will get a good boost or that the general interest of regional countries, including Australia, will be better promoted if the Australian government bases its national strategy on such visionless analysis and outdated mindset said the spokesman. statement said.
During his speech, Mr Dutton said that China’s naval power had more than tripled in the past two decades alone to become the largest navy in the world, with 355 ships and submarines.
He said every major city in Australia, including Hobart, was within range of Chinese missiles expected to reach between 700 and 1,000 nuclear warheads over the next decade.
“Today we face the most significant change in our strategic environment since World War II,” he said.
“Again, Australia finds itself in a region at the epicenter of global strategic competition, a region witnessing a military buildup of scale and ambition historically seldom associated with peaceful outcomes.
“Australians have watched, along with the peoples of the Indo-Pacific and the world, and we have been closely monitoring the Chinese government’s engagement in increasingly alarming activities.”
Mr Dutton said he had spoken to Prime Minister Scott Morrison many times about how “we live in the echoes of the 1930s”.
“There are many men and women who, as parents, have sent their children to conflicts in the near region and across Europe and many other parts of the world and those soldiers and those veterans have suffered and paid a high price and I never want to see that repeat,” he said.
“The world would be foolish to repeat the mistakes of the 1930s.
“We live in times of high tensions, but the region is not on an inevitable path to conflict.
“But only if all countries of good will work together to do our utmost to avoid the rock face.”
He said conflict should be avoided, but “consent or reconciliation is a tactic that is a dead end to strategic misfortune or worse”.
“If a conflict were to arise through misunderstanding, miscalculation or hostility, it would be disastrous for all of us,” he said.
“Australia’s position is very clear. Conflicts must be avoided.
“I think we should declare 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 amplify voices that have been silenced by coercion but who seek the same peace and stability as we do.”