Australian Minister for Defence Peter Dutton yesterday said a conflict involving China over Taiwan cannot be discounted, but added that the Australian government’s focus remains on having “good relations” with Beijing.
Dutton was asked about the prospect of a “battle over Taiwan,” following remarks from former Australian minister for defence Christopher Pyne and former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott about China’s expansionist plans in the region.
“I don’t think it [conflict] should be discounted,” Dutton told Australian Broadcasting Corp’s Insiders.
“China has been very clear about the reunification and that’s been a long-held objective of theirs. They have been very clear about that goal,” he said.
“People need to be realistic about the activity. There is militarization of bases across the region. Obviously, there is a significant amount of activity, and there is an animosity between Taiwan and China,” he added.
Dutton said Australia wanted to continue being “a good neighbor in the region” that worked with its partners and allies.
“Nobody wants to see conflict between China and Taiwan, or anywhere else,” he said.
The minister said Australia was focused on continuing “good relations” with China.
“We have good relations with a number of countries, including China, a very important trading partner. We have an incredible diaspora community here in Australia, people who have contributed to our country over generations that are incredibly important Australians,” he said.
“But we do have a difference of opinion with the ideals of the Communist Party of China. Let’s be very frank about it,” he added.
Dutton said Australia was prepared for any conflict and while it planned to stay in “peacetime” the Australian Defence Force (ADF) was ready to meet potential threats.
“There is a high level of preparedness, as there should be, as there always will be, for our Australian Defence Force to meet the threats that we see in our region toward our country, against our allies,” he said.
The outbreak of a war over Taiwan would be “disastrous” for the region, the chief of the ADF said early this month.
Australian General Angus Campbell at the time said Australia would keep pushing for peaceful dialogue and urged countries to “all work to avoid” conflict over the future of Taiwan.
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