Australia doesn’t rule out arming Taiwan against China, says minister of defense

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Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton refused to rule out arming Taiwan against China in the same way that the West has armed Ukraine against Russia, claiming Australia would do whatever it can to “deter China from acts of aggression.”

In an interview with ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday, Dutton claimed China was “amassing nuclear weapons” and “militarizing” and likened the “threat” of China reclaiming Taiwan to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

After being asked whether Australia would arm Taiwan in the same way that the West has armed Ukraine if China tried to reclaim the island, Dutton said, “Well I think we do whatever we can to deter China from acts of aggression in our region.”

“The question is, as it is in the Ukraine at the moment, if it’s Taiwan does it just stop there?” the minister questioned, before citing former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. “Does it mean that China wants to have this tributary state model as Kissinger and others have spoken about over history in the Indo-Pacific? What does it mean for our trading relationships with Malaysia or with Vietnam or with Indonesia?”

Dutton argued that while there is always “a cost for action,” there is also a “cost of inaction,” and added, “So ours for now is a desire to see peace prevail and to deter any acts of aggression whether it’s from China or from Russia or anybody else.”

After interviewer David Speers asked Dutton to give a clear response as to whether Australia would arm Taiwan, Dutton refused to rule out anything, saying the country would “take interest in any of those conflicts or the threat of conflict that serve our national interest.”

The minister also said Australia’s arrangement to obtain nuclear-powered submarines in the near-future would send a “very strong deterrence message” in the Indo-Pacific and he warned that China was “amassing huge forces” in the region.

Asked if Australia would aid the US if it took action against China over Taiwan, Dutton said, “If it’s in our national interest to protect our homeland and our allies then we would take that decision at that time as to what was in our country’s best interest and there’s no sense pretending otherwise.”

“We live in a very uncertain time and not just the next few years but the next couple of decades. We want peace to prevail in our region but you don’t have that peace if you’re arguing from a position of weakness,” he concluded. “Australia needs to be in a strong position. We’re in the strongest possible position if we’re in the company of great allies like NATO partners.”

During the interview, Dutton also revealed that the Australian government would soon announce more about its nuclear submarine agreement with the US and UK, and that it was going to “acquire the capability much sooner than” 2040 – the date originally expected.

In November, Dutton said it would be “inconceivable” for Australia not to join the US in taking action against China if Beijing tried to reclaim Taiwan by force. The comments sparked outrage in Beijing and Global Times editor Hu Xijin warned Dutton that Australia “better be prepared to sacrifice for Taiwan island and the US” if it ever makes such a move.

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