Australian Prime Minister Warns to Stand Up to China on Bien Dong Sea
Peter Dutton, Australia Defence Minister, has previously been chastised for provocative remarks raising the risk of war, told The Sydney Morning Herald on Monday that the US and its allies had wasted crucial time by "acquiescing" to Beijing, enabling it to militarize the disputed waterway by constructing artificial islands and defense bases.
|Defence Minister Peter Dutton says Australia could lose the next decade unless it stands up to China in the Bien Dong Sea. Photo: Sydney Morning Herald|
The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age have also launched a four-part series examining whether Australian forces could defend the country from an attack and whether Australia has the military capabilities to meaningfully project power deep into the region alongside allies as tensions in the Indo-Pacific rise.
“I think we’ve lost a considerable period of time where China gave assurances about their activity in the South China Sea,” Dutton told The Sydney Morning Herald as part of a four-part series examining whether Australia is ready for war.
“And the United States and others acquiesced and allowed the militarisation now to the point where China has 20 points of presence in the South China Sea, which does not help stability in the region. If we continue on that trajectory, then I think we’ll lose the next decade. And my sense is that we’re better off being honest about that,” he added.
Peter Dutton has stated that he believes Australia would acquire its first nuclear submarine under the AUKUS agreement between Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom before 2038. “I have no doubt we’ll have a nuclear-propelled submarine before that date,” said Defense Minister Dutton.
|China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, sailing during a drill at sea. Peter Dutton says Australians need to be ‘realistic about the activity of China in the South China Sea. Photo: Getty Images|
The Defense Minister also mentioned that the US and its allies had previously let China build artificial islands and defense bases in the disputed waters. He said it was important to speak out about China for two main reasons: to teach the Australian people and to ensure that the past decade was not repeated when China militarized the South China Sea.
“The US and other countries have allowed militarization to the point where China has 20 points of presence in this sea, while not helping to stabilize the region. If we stay on that trajectory, I think we will lose in the next decade. In my opinion, we need to be honest about that," he said.
The Defence Minister's remarks come ahead of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's arrival in Australia this week, where he will attend a conference of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue's foreign ministers in Melbourne before flying to Fiji and Hawaii. The Quad, which consists of Australia, the United States, India, and Japan, will seek to strengthen security and development cooperation in order to counter China.
|Chinese dredging vessels purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, May 2015. Photo: U.S. Navy|
“The sides are seriously concerned about the trilateral security partnership between Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, which provides for deeper co-operation between its members in areas involving strategic stability, in particular their decision to initiate co-operation in the field of nuclear-powered submarines,” the statement said.
“Russia and China believe that such actions are contrary to the objectives of security and sustainable development of the Asia-Pacific region, increase the danger of an arms race in the region, and pose serious risks of nuclear proliferation.”
The submarines will not carry nuclear weapons, according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
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