Mon, 26 Sep 2022

The shadow defense minister says Canberra needs to arm itself amid Asia-Pacific tensions

Australia must acquire its own "sovereign" missiles with the help of the US and Britain in countering China, Shadow Defense Minister Andrew Hastie has said.

"The strategic outlook is very bleak. It's being driven by a rising China with both revisionist and expansionist ambitions," Hastie, who served as deputy defense minister from 2020 to May 2022, told ABC on Sunday.

"Which is why we need missiles that can reach out and touch an adversary," he said, adding that Canberra should work closer with the US and the UK on the matter.

"We need to partner to develop our own sovereign missiles, Australian-owned, Australian-delivered, if required."

The US, Britain, and Australia signed a defense pact last year, known as AUKUS, which allows Canberra to acquire nuclear submarines. Hastie urged the government to have a "relentless political focus" on delivering the submarines as soon as possible. China has described the pact as a destabilizing factor in the region that would trigger a new arms race.

Hastie's remarks come amid renewed tensions over Taiwan, which were sparked by the visit of Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, to the island. China, which considers self-governed Taiwan part of its territory, opposes any forms of diplomatic recognition of the government in Taipei.

Beijing called Pelosi's trip "a complete farce" and launched snap live-fire military drills around the island, which the Taipei authorities said were "tantamount to a sea and air blockade."

Hastie told ABC that Australia should be prepared to defend Taiwan against China. "I think it is a principled position to defend your neighbor, but it's also a principle borne out of self-interest," he argued. "If I don't stand up for other countries, who will stand up for me?"

"As a nation of only 26 million people on a vast continent, we need as many friends as we can get. In fact, I would say the era of the Lucky Country is over," Hastie said, referring to Australia's unofficial nickname.

Australia has refrained from establishing diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but maintains unofficial ties through offices and institutions that function as de facto embassies and consulates. Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong condemned the Chinese drills near Taiwan as "disproportionate and destabilizing."

The Chinese Embassy in Australia released a statement on Saturday, saying, "it is absolutely unacceptable for the finger-pointing on China's justified actions to safeguard state sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Last year, Australia's then-defense minister, Peter Dutton, warned that a conflict involving China over Taiwan could not be ruled out. He stressed, however, that the government wanted to maintain good relations with China, which he described as an important trade partner.

(RT.com)

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