Chance of China, Taiwan conflict should not be discounted, says Australian minister

Lidia Kelly, Reuters

Posted at Apr 27 2021 04:13 AM

Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning sails through the Miyako Strait near Okinawa on its way to the Pacific in this handout photo taken by Japan Self-Defense Forces and released by the Joint Staff Office of the Defense Ministry of Japan on April 4, 2021. Joint Staff Office of the Defense Ministry of Japan handout via Reuters

MELBOURNE—The chance of a conflict involving China over Taiwan "should not be discounted," but Australia will work with its allies in the region to try and maintain peace, Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton said on Sunday.

Dutton told the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) that China had been increasingly clear about its reunification ambitions with Taiwan.

"I don't think it should be discounted," Dutton said when asked whether the prospects of a battle over Taiwan were growing.

"People need to be realistic about the activity," Dutton added. "There is militarization of bases across the region. Obviously, there is a significant amount of activity and there is an animosity between Taiwan and China."

China claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under Beijing's control.

Taiwan's government says only Taiwan's people can decide its future, and has denounced Chinese threats.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said he hoped Australia was aware of the sensitive nature of the issue and could "avoid sending any wrong signal to Taiwan independence forces".

Australia's diplomatic relations with China, its largest trading partner, have worsened since Canberra called for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus which was first reported in the Chinese city Wuhan, prompting trade reprisals from Beijing.

Dutton added that while there is a high level of preparedness for the Australian defense force to meet any threats in the region against the country's allies, Canberra will work to try to maintain peace.

"We want to make sure we continue to be a good neighbor in the region, that we work with our partners and with our allies and nobody wants to see conflict between China and Taiwan or anywhere else," Dutton said. (Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Additional reporting by Yew Lun Tian in Beijing and Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Andrew Heavens)


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