The previous Australian prime minister Tony Abbott has raised fears Beijing “might lash out disastrously very quickly” amid rising tensions over the way forward for Taiwan – and argued the US and Australia couldn’t stand idly by.
Delivering a keynote handle to a regional discussion board in Taipei on Friday, Abbott dismissed claims that Australian officers have been beating the “drums of struggle”, whereas calling on Beijing to “reduce the aggression”.
At a later press convention, Abbott mentioned he would return to Australia with a message for the federal government in regards to the significance of doing “every thing we moderately can to help Taiwan” because it was “underneath main problem from its big neighbour”.
Abbott additionally described Taiwan as a “fantastic nation” earlier than correcting himself to say a “fantastic place”. The phrasing is delicate as a result of Australia – like most nations – doesn’t have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. He mentioned: “It’s very straightforward to fall into these little traps, isn’t it?”
Abbott used an handle to the Yushan Discussion board on Friday to accuse China of displaying “rising belligerence to Taiwan” – together with by way of a latest improve in incursions by navy plane into Taiwan’s air defence zone.
“Sensing that its relative energy might need peaked, with its inhabitants ageing, its economic system slowing, and its funds creaking, it’s fairly attainable that Beijing might lash out disastrously very quickly,” mentioned Abbott, who was prime minister from 2013 to 2015.
“Our problem is to strive to make sure that the unthinkable stays unlikely; and that the attainable doesn’t grow to be the possible.”
Abbott mentioned he didn’t consider the US “might stand by” and watch Taiwan be “swallowed up” by China. “I don’t suppose Australia needs to be detached to the destiny of a fellow democracy of just about 25 million individuals,” he added.
Abbott – the prime minister who signed Australia’s free commerce settlement with China in 2014 – mentioned “a lot has modified” since then.
The secretary of Australia’s Division of House Affairs, Michael Pezzullo, attracted criticism in April when he mentioned that free nations “once more hear the beating drums” of struggle and have been bracing for “the curse of struggle”.
In Friday’s speech, Abbott mentioned: “So if the ‘drums of struggle’ may be heard in our area, as an official of ours has famous, it’s not Australia that’s beating them. The one drums we beat are for justice and freedom – freedom for all individuals, in China and in Taiwan, to make their very own selections about their lives and their futures.”
Abbott mentioned China had taken “a incorrect flip”. Its actions have been accountable, he mentioned, for the reinvigorated Quad grouping of the US, Japan, India and Australia. “The extra aggressive it turns into, the extra opponents it’s going to discover.”
Abbott mentioned he had hesitated to attend the identical convention two years in the past “lest that provoke China” however he cited a variety of developments since then, together with the clampdown on dissent in Hong Kong and “weaponising” commerce towards Australia.
In an obvious reference to the Chinese language president, Xi Jinping, Abbott mentioned Beijing had “cancelled well-liked personalities in favour of a cult of the pink emperor”.
Abbott referred to as on governments – together with Australia’s – to welcome Taiwan into the commerce deal now generally known as the Complete and Progressive Settlement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
Abbott, who was appointed final yr as an adviser to the UK Board of Commerce, urged China’s personal bid to hitch the CPTPP needs to be blocked whereas it was “engaged in a commerce struggle with Australia, and in predatory commerce all-round”.
The previous prime minister mentioned China might “hardly succeed whereas it mistreats its personal individuals and threatens its neighbours”. He ended his speech by urging the viewers to “keep free”.
On the later press convention, Abbott acknowledged he had not too long ago visited India as an Australian authorities commerce envoy, however mentioned he was “right here as citizen Abbott”.
He argued Australia ought to “intensify” naval patrols within the South China Sea, the East China Sea and the Taiwan Strait: “The easiest way to make sure that the battle none of us need and can be a disaster for everybody [is avoided] is to let Beijing know that Taiwan has mates.”
Abbott additionally instructed reporters it was as much as China to “make amends” with Australia after Beijing had taken “grievous offence at our completely harmless name for an neutral investigation into the Wuhan virus”.
The Australian authorities didn’t use the time period Wuhan virus – a time period favoured by some members of the previous Trump administration.
“We’ve got no intrinsic dispute with China, however there are a number of issues the place China is treating us extraordinarily unfairly with nice aggression, and it’s actually as much as the Chinese language to cease that,” Abbott mentioned.
Australia’s overseas affairs minister, Marise Payne, mentioned the federal government was dedicated to its one-China coverage – however that didn’t stop Australia from strengthening ties with Taiwan, which she described as a “main democracy” and a “crucial accomplice”.
“We’ve got been involved by tensions throughout the Taiwan Strait sharpening in latest months,” Payne instructed the ABC on Thursday. “It’s clear that battle is in nobody’s pursuits right here and we’re involved by elevated air incursions by China into Taiwan’s air defence zone prior to now week.”
When requested on Friday whether or not the Australian authorities had had any enter into Abbott’s speech, or had briefed him forward of his journey, a spokesperson for Payne mentioned: “Mr Abbott was travelling in a non-public capability.”
Remark has been sought from the Chinese language embassy in Canberra.