A senior Australian security bureaucrat has told his staff that free nations “again hear the beating drums” of war, as military tensions rise in the Asia-Pacific region.
Australian Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs Mike Pezzullo’s message to all department staff on Anzac Day on Sunday was published in the Australian yesterday.
“In a world of perpetual tension and dread, the drums of war beat — sometimes faintly and distantly, and at other times more loudly and ever closer,” Pezzullo said.
“Today, as free nations again hear the beating drums and watch worryingly the militarisation of issues that we had, until recent years, thought unlikely to be catalysts for war, let us continue to search unceasingly for the chance for peace while bracing again, yet again, for the curse of war,” he added.
Australian Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews said that she had approved the wording of Pezzullo’s message.
“He is absolutely at liberty to prepare such a speech, a document, and to have that published,” Andrews said. “The overarching message from government is that we need to be alert, but not alarmed.”
Senior opposition Labor Party lawmaker Bill Shorten said that Pezzullo’s reference to “drums of war” was “pretty hyper-excited language.”
“I’m not sure our senior public servants should be using that language, because I’m not sure what that actually helps except to cause more anxiety,” Shorten said.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not directly answer when asked at a news conference whether he agreed with Pezzullo that the drums of war were beating.
“My goal as prime minister ... is to pursue peace,” Morrison said. “That’s what we’re doing. We’re pursuing peace for a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Morison said that his government had increased defense spending to “ensure that Australia’s national interests can always be protected.”
Australian Minister for Defence Peter Dutton raised the prospect of conflict between China and Taiwan in his own comments on Anzac Day.
“Nobody wants to see conflict between China and Taiwan or anywhere else in the world,” Dutton said. “I don’t think it should be discounted.”
In response to Dutton’s remarks, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) on Monday said that Taiwan was part of Chinese internal affairs, which do not tolerate external interference.
“It’s hoped that the Australian side will fully recognize that the Taiwan question is highly sensitive, abide by the ‘one China’ principle, be prudent in its words and deeds, avoid sending any wrong signals to the Taiwanese independence separatist forces, and act in ways beneficial to peace and stability,” Wang said.
Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan — the Labor government leader of the state that exports Australia’s most lucrative export, iron ore, to China — called on the federal government to “tone down” its language on military tensions.
“What good does that do, saying things like that? It’s totally unnecessary,” McGowan said, adding that diplomacy should be conducted “diplomatically.”
Pezzullo had said that this year marks the 70th anniversary of Australia’s defense treaty with the US.
He cited US World War II-era generals Dwight Eisenhower, who later became president, and Douglas MacArthur.
“Let us remember the warnings of two American generals who had known war waged totally and brutally: We must search always for the chance for peace amidst the curse of war, until we are faced with the only prudent, if sorrowful, course — to send off, yet again, our warriors to fight the nation’s wars,” he said.
Australia must reduce the likelihood of war, “but not at the cost of our precious freedom,” Pezzullo added.
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