‘Mistakes of the ’30s’: Peter Dutton steps up Chinese rhetoric as Keating calls him a ‘dangerous personality’ | Peter Dutton

Australia’s defense minister has stepped up his pre-election warnings about the threat posed by China, stating that Beijing wants countries to be “tributaries” and is building its military on a scale unlikely to be peaceful.

Peter Dutton said Friday that “dark clouds” are forming in the region and countries “would be foolish to repeat the mistakes of the 1930s”.

He said the price for Australia to come to Taiwan’s aid in a military conflict could be less than the consequences of doing nothing, while accusing his critics of “simplistic” or “wishful thinking” about China’s change in attitude.

The Chinese embassy hit back at Dutton, saying it was “fuelling conflict and division”, pointing to further damage to the already tense relationship between Australia and its largest trading partner.

Dutton, a key conservative figure in Scott Morrison’s government, said Chinese President Xi Jinping was not bragging about Beijing’s determination to take Taiwan by 2040.

Dutton argued that China would not stop there. “If Taiwan is taken, the Senkakus are definitely next,” he said, referring to uninhabited islets in the East China Sea that are controlled by Japan but claimed by China, where they are known as Diaoyu Dao.

The minister predicted that China would also impose a more coercive relationship with other countries in the region, resulting in “a dangerous military and economic situation for our country and many others”.

Just days after he was accused by the opposition of dangerously increasing the prospect of war for domestic political ends, Dutton added an election message to his speech.

He said it was a “time of great uncertainty” and Australians “can rest assured that the government – the Morrison government – will act to keep them safe”.

“Over the next decade, China’s stockpile of nuclear warheads — estimated to be in the 200s last year — is expected to reach between 700 and 1000 nuclear warheads,” Dutton told the National Press Club on Friday.

“Every major city in Australia, including Hobart, is within range of China’s missiles.”

Dutton said the Indo-Pacific “witnessed a military buildup of scale and ambition that has historically been rarely associated with peaceful results”.

Dutton said that despite the high tensions, the region was not on an inevitable path to conflict, “but only if all countries of goodwill work together to ensure that we do our utmost to stay away from the rock face”.

“Does the Chinese government want to occupy other countries? Not in my judgment,” Dutton said.

“But they do see us as tributary states – and that’s what our country has fought against since the federation against giving up sovereignty and giving up all adherence to the international legal order.

“It has entailed a high human cost and any repetition of the mistakes of the 1930s would again cost our country a high price and much more.”

Dutton’s speech reflects the Australian government’s growing concern about China’s military build-up and its activities in the South and East China seas and the mounting military pressure on Taiwan.

But his intervention also strengthens the Morrison administration’s efforts to portray Labor as weak for national security and for China in the run-up to the elections, even though there is generally a bipartisan consensus on the region’s strategic challenges. .

Labor Foreign Office spokesman Penny Wong said Dutton’s speech was a case of “desperate political tactics”. She said Dutton, a one-time prime minister who fell short in the 2018 Liberal Party vote, was auditioning for Morrison’s job.

Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating went on the offensive, calling Dutton “a dangerous personality” who had devised a “horrifyingly aggressive and unrealistic scenario regarding Australia’s foreign and defensive stance in the region”.

Keating – who weeks earlier had called on Australia to stay out of any war over Taiwan’s status and who is critical of the bipartisan consensus on foreign policy – said the stance was “inappropriate for Australia’s fragile geographic conditions”.

“Peter Dutton, through his imprudent statements, continues to put Australia in a potentially explosive situation in Northern Asia — a situation Australia cannot control or control, let alone succeed and thrive,” Keating said in a statement. .

Dutton had previously accused Keating of being in favor of appeasement with China and being out of touch with current strategic realities.

“Well, I mean, if you look at Paul Keating, Neville Keating or Paul Chamberlain — take your pick, they’re all pretty appropriate names for Paul Keating,” Dutton said.

“I cannot, for my life, refer to any of what Paul Keating says in the year 2021. It is a great pleasure to think that the US could be in decline in Keating’s mind.”

The Australian government and the Labor Party have both recently expressed concern over an increase in Chinese military pressure against Taiwan, a democratically governed island of 24 million people, amid Beijing’s long-term goal of aligning itself with what it believes. considers it its territory.

Dutton told the Australian newspaper earlier this month: “It would be inconceivable that we would not support the US in an action if the US chose to take that action.”

Dutton said he would not deploy military personnel lightly, adding that he “felt that weight heavy” when he sent personnel to Kabul in August to assist with the evacuation after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.

“I mentioned the 1930s earlier and there are many men and women who, as parents, 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 suffered and paid a large price and I never want to see that again,” said Dutton.

He said that if Australia were “a weak and untrustworthy and untrustworthy friend” to its main security ally, it would be unable to count on US support in the future — an outcome “that would be disastrous for not just this generation.” , but for generations of mothers and fathers and members of the ADF”.

A spokesman for the Chinese embassy said it was “inconceivable” that the relationship between China and Australia would “be given a boost” or that Australia’s public interests would be served “if the Australian government bases its national strategy on such a visionless analysis and outdated mindset”.

Beijing last year rolled out a series of trade campaigns against Australian export sectors, including wine, barley, beef and seafood, and has refused to allow ministerial appeals on the basis of a bad “ambience” for talks.

The Australian government has said it will not bow to “economic coercion” and has reached a new security deal with the US and the UK – called Aukus – to acquire at least eight nuclear-powered submarines from about 2040.

Labor defense spokesman Brendan O’Connor called on Morrison to “restrain” Dutton, arguing that it was “truly irresponsible” for the defense secretary to misrepresent the positions of the Australian opposition.

“I think he has every right to say that we should be prepared for the worst and obviously aim for the best possible outcome in our region – but I don’t think using war rhetoric for political ends has been helpful, has helped, has been wise anyway,” O’Connor told Sky News.

“We will not fall back on China’s list of demands and we support the government in defending our values ​​and our interests in this region,” O’Connor said.

Leave a Comment