China’s embassy in Canberra has denounced former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott for what it called a “despicable and insane performance in Taiwan.”
On a visit to Taipei to address a regional forum last week, Abbott raised concerns that Beijing “could lash out disastrously very soon” amid growing tensions over the future of Taiwan, and said that the US and Australia could not stand idly by.
The Chinese embassy posted a brief statement on its Web site late on Saturday describing Abbott as “a failed and pitiful politician.”
Abbott, giving a speech in Taipei on Friday, said he does not believe that the US and Australia could stand by and watch Taiwan be “swallowed up” by China.
“His recent despicable and insane performance in Taiwan fully exposed his hideous anti-China features,” an unnamed embassy spokesperson said. “This will only further discredit him.”
Abbott, who arrived in Taiwan on Wednesday, maintained that he was visiting as a private citizen, not as a representative of the Australian government.
Abbott met with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Thursday and told her that he hoped his visit to the democratically ruled island would help end its isolation from the international community.
Abbott delivered a keynote address to the Yushan Forum on Friday morning in which he accused China of displaying “growing belligerence to Taiwan” — including through a recent increase in incursions by military aircraft into Taiwan’s air defense zone.
In an apparent reference to Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), Abbott said Beijing had “canceled popular personalities in favor of a cult of the red emperor.”
At a media briefing later on Friday, Abbott said he would return to Australia with a message for the government about the importance of doing “everything we reasonably can to support Taiwan” as it was “under major challenge from its giant neighbor.”
Abbott also described Taiwan as a “wonderful country” before correcting himself to say a “wonderful place.” The phrasing is sensitive because Australia — like most nations — does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
“It’s very easy to fall into these little traps, isn’t it?” he said.
In a speech to dignitaries at a closing dinner event on Friday, Abbott that said China was “coming for Taiwan’s freedom,” and added: “The best way to avoid the war that no one wants is to be ready for it.”
The Australian government has said that it is concerned by a “sharpening” in tensions across the Taiwan Strait in recent months.
While it says it is committed to its “one-China” policy, that does not prevent Australia from strengthening ties with Taiwan, which Canberra describes as a “leading democracy” and a “critical partner.”
A spokesman for Abbott said on Friday that his trip was private and the Australian government did not see an advance copy of his speech.
As prime minister, Abbott oversaw the signing of Australia’s free-trade agreement with China and lauded Xi at a state dinner in Canberra in 2014.
However, he said on Friday that “much has changed” since then.
Over the past year and a half, Beijing has rolled out tariffs and other trade actions against Australian export sectors.
Australia cited a deteriorating strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific when it announced last month that it was joining with the US and the UK to acquire at least eight nuclear-propelled submarines under the new AUKUS deal.
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