‘Mistakes of the 1930s’: Peter Dutton ramps up China rhetoric as Keating calls him a ‘dangerous personality’
Australia’s defence minister has ramped up his pre-election warnings about the threat posed by China, declaring Beijing wants countries to be “tributary states” and is building up its military at a scale that is unlikely to be peaceful.
He said the price of Australia coming to Taiwan’s aid in a military conflict may be lower than the consequences of inaction, while accusing his critics of engaging in “simplistic” or “wishful thinking” about China’s change in posture.
China’s embassy hit back at Dutton, saying he was “fanning conflict and division”, and it hinted at further harm to the already-strained relationship between Australia and its largest trading partner.
Dutton, a significant conservative figure in Scott Morrison’s government, said China’s president, Xi Jinping, was not bluffing about Beijing’s determination to take Taiwan by the 2040s.
Dutton argued China would not stop there and would also impose a more coercive relationship with other countries in the region, resulting in “a perilous military and economic situation for our country and many others”.
Just days after he was accused by the opposition of dangerously amping up the prospect of war for domestic political purposes, Dutton injected an election message into his speech.
He said it was a “time of great uncertainty” and Australians “can be certain that the government – the Morrison government – will act to keep them safe”.
“Over the next decade, China’s nuclear warhead stockpile – estimated to be in the 200s last year – is projected to reach between 700 and 1,000 warheads,” Dutton told the National Press Club on Friday.
Dutton said the Indo-Pacific was “witness to a military build-up of a scale and ambition that, historically, has rarely been associated with peaceful outcomes”.
Dutton said despite high tensions, the region was not on an inevitable path to conflict, “but only if all countries of goodwill ensure together we do our utmost to steer clear of the cliff face”.