Australia wakes up to Beijing threat

  • By Yao Chung-yuan

Taiwan has no official defense link with Australia, but as the Chinese military expands its power and presence in the South Pacific and threatens the Indo-Pacific region, a bilateral strategic security cooperation between the two nations may soon be needed as another tool to maintain regional security and stability.

In an article titled “War Games Tomorrow: ‘This may end in an all-out invasion,” published in the Weekend Australian newspaper on September 11, Australian Senator Jim Molan, retired Army Major General Australian, describes a potential scenario for Australia in the post-Afghanistan era.

“China has a strategic goal: to be dominant, first in the region, then maybe in the world,” Molan wrote, later adding, “The United States is the target. The CCP [Chinese Communist Party] the goal is to reduce American power, and Taiwan must be seen as the means.

“Taiwan could be used by China to induce US naval forces to enter an area of ​​great vulnerability. China’s objective would then be to cause the United States such heavy losses that it must withdraw from the Western Pacific, ”he wrote.

In other words, as Molan wrote, China’s strategy is to use a conflict in the Taiwan Strait to expel the US military from the Western Pacific.

In recent years, the Australian government has sought to fit into the structure of the ASEAN alliance on regional security issues and has placed increased emphasis on the situation in the Taiwan Strait. Australia is at the forefront of China’s rise to military power and sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea, so Canberra has sought a long-term bilateral alliance with Washington.

A 2016 Australian Department of Defense white paper identified the strategic confrontation between the United States and China as an important factor for the security of the Asia-Pacific region, adding that the United States is the most strategic partner. important from Australia.

A United States Marine Corps contingent has been stationed in Darwin since 2012, conducting exercises and training with the Australian Defense Force. In 2014, it was announced that the size of the deployment would increase to 1,150 Marines, but the number has since grown to 2,500.

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton told the Australian Broadcasting Corp in an April 24 interview that the dispute with China over Taiwan “should not be ruled out,” adding that Australia will ensure that that “we continue to be a good neighbor in the region and that we work with our partners and with our allies. No one wants to see a conflict.

Dutton also said that China’s plans for Taiwan were increasingly evident and that the time had come for the Australian military to shift its center of gravity to neighboring regions.

A May 6 Australian Financial Review opinion piece titled “Australia draws line from China to Taiwan” discussed high tensions in the Taiwan Strait, saying that in the event of armed conflict, Australia and New Zealand may be required to provide at least support to the United States as required under the 1951 Security Treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

To prevent Beijing from destroying the “status quo” in the Indo-Pacific region and invading Taiwan, Australia’s defense strategy focuses on increasing its military strength.

The Defense Strategic Update 2020 and Australia’s Force Structure Plan 2020 indicate that over the next decade Australia will increase its defense spending by A $ 270 billion ($ 196 billion at the current exchange rate).

Canberra has also taken concrete strategic steps to control China’s expansion, including hosting a quadrilateral security dialogue meeting with the United States, Japan and India in March, a two-way meeting with ministers. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Defense in June, and the unveiling this month of a trilateral security partnership with the United Kingdom and the United States, called “AUKUS,” whose first initiative is to assist the Australia to develop nuclear powered submarine capability.

Australia and Taiwan share many of the same values: democracy, freedom, the rule of law and the protection of human rights, as well as a healthy bilateral trade relationship. With Canberra more attentive to the Chinese threat and the situation in the Taiwan Strait, Taipei should take full advantage of this strategic opportunity.

The military exchange mechanism between the United States and Taiwan could provide Taipei with an opportunity to promote closer security cooperation with Canberra, including in the important areas of intelligence sharing, think tanks, cybersecurity and humanitarian aid.

Yao Chung-yuan is a professor and former deputy director of the strategic planning department of the Ministry of National Defense.

Translated by Edward Jones

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