Peter Dutton appeared to suggest he would be willing to send Australian troops to fight and die over Taiwan.
After a hawkish speech about the threat posed by China, the Defence Minister was asked whether ADF parents can expect their children will be ‘going to Taiwan to fight and perhaps die’.
The minister did not directly answer the question but said it would be ‘disastrous’ for Australia if it did not support the US in a potential conflict with China over Taiwan.
Peter Dutton has warned Chinese missiles can reach every Australian city in a hawkish speech about Beijing’s growing military power
‘I would say to those parents that we stand up for the values that their forebears have stood up for and that we, as a country, have always stood up for,’ he told the National Press Club.
‘And we’ll do it with a capacity, capability and might that’s respected around the world and that makes us a valuable partner with those great friends.
‘And if we’re a weak and unreliable and untrustworthy friend, then we won’t expect the support of those countries and, in particular the United States, into the future and I think that would be disastrous for not just this generation but for generations of mums and dads and members of the ADF and we should be very honest about that.’
China’s growing military might
355 ships and submarines
Coast Guard of 130 1,000-tonne ships
2,000 ground-launch ballistic missiles with a range of up to 5,500km
Expected to reach 700 and 1,000 nuclear warheads
Source: Peter Dutton’s speech
Earlier this month Mr Dutton warned it would ‘inconceivable’ for Australia not to join its most important ally, the US, in a war over Taiwan.
China claims Taiwan as its own territory and has vowed to take it by force if necessary while Taiwan says it is an independent country and will defend its freedoms and democracy.
The US has followed a position of ‘strategic ambiguity’ meaning it does not make clear whether it would support Taiwan but at the same time sells arms to the island.
Mr Dutton made his comment after former Prime Minister Paul Keating said Australia should stay out of any war.
‘Taiwan is not a vital Australian interest,’ he told the National Press Club earlier this month.
‘We have no alliance with Taipei, none. Australia should not be drawn in my view into a military engagement over Taiwan, US-sponsored or otherwise.’
Also in his hawkish speech, Mr Dutton warned Chinese missiles can reach every Australian city.
The Defence Minister said China has the largest navy in the world, made up of 355 ships and submarines and also warned of its growing nuclear capability.
‘Over the next decade, China’s nuclear warhead stockpiles, estimated to be in the 200s last year, is projected to reach between 700 and 1,000 warheads,’ he told the National Press Club.
‘Every major city in Australia, including Hobart, is within range of China’s missiles.’
His remarks came after it was revealed a Chinese spy ship lurked off the Australian coast for three weeks and passing several major military bases in August and September.
The Dongdiao-class spy ship entered the 200km exclusive economic zone off the coast of Darwin in August.
The ships are equipped with sophisticated antennas and radar technology that allows them to monitor defences. China has used them to spy on Taiwan.
The vessel ventured south and traveled along the east coast before passing ‘one of Australia’s prime military training areas’ in Shoalwater Bay, Queensland.
A Chinese spy ship was spotted lurking off the Australian coast for three weeks and passing several major military bases (pictured, surveillance ship used by China to monitor the military exercises between Australia and the United States)
It then passed several training areas used by the Royal Australian Airforce before travelling off the coast to Sydney.
The ship then travelled across the Tasman and to New Zealand in September.
Defence sources claim they were surprised by the arrival of the vessel, Daily Telegraph reported.
China has frequently sent surveillance ships to Australia and monitored the Talisman Sabre military exercises with the United States in 2017, 2019 and July 2021.
Three Chinese warships also sailed into Sydney Harbour unannounced on the eve of the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 2019.
A Defence source described the most recent visit as unusual as there were no military exercises taking place.
The route taken by the Chinese spy ship (above)
Foreign vessels are allowed to travel in the exclusive economic zone but they must not come within 12 nautical miles of the coast.
The Dongdiao-class spy ship was shadowed by Australian naval boat HMAS Supply.
A Defence spokesperson said they vessel had been closely monitored.
‘Australia monitors all vessels operating in our maritime (area),’ the spokesperson said.
‘Australia supports and respects the rights of all states to exercise lawful freedom of navigation … in international waters, just as we expect them to respect our right to do so.’
The sighting of the ship comes as tensions continue to rise between Australia and China.
China’s acting ambassador to Australia Wang Xining called Australia the ‘naughty guy’ in an interview with Guardian Australia about the AUKUS pact with the United States and United Kingdom.
China has inflamed tensions in the South China Sea in recent years by expanding its claimed territory, to the objection of its neighbours in the Asia-Pacific
He accused Australia of being a ‘sabre wielder’ and warned it against ‘doing anything that’s destructive to our relationship’.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton labelled the comments as ‘so silly it’s funny’.
Mr Dutton said the acting ambassador was reading off a Communist Party script.
‘We don’t see (this) from any other ambassador here in Australia. It’s quite remarkable,’ the minister told the Nine Network on Friday.
‘This provocative sort of comical statements – really, it’s so silly it’s funny.
‘Most Australians see through the non-productive nature of the comments and they should be dismissed in that vein.’
The sighting of the ship comes as tensions continue to rise between Australia and China