China warns Australia not to take sides
China has urged Australia to refrain from making ‘irresponsible remarks’ after the foreign policy white paper identified its growing prominence and activity in the South China Sea as a potential security threat.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman says Australia should not take sides because it isn’t directly involved in the territorial disputes.
The report revealed Australia is ‘particularly concerned by the unprecedented pace and scale of China’s activities’ in the region.
China claims virtually the entire South China Sea – pitting it against Taiwan and four Southeast Asian nations with overlapping claims in the waterway.
The US and others have accused Beijing of further militarising the region to claim more territory.
Former Deputy Chief of the Air Force John Blackburn says a dispute with China could have implications for Australia’s economy.
He says any escalation of tensions in the region – or with North Korea – could leave Australia with a fuel shortfall, and cause our economy to come to a grinding halt.
Mr Blackburn warns about the potential impacts on our lives if things do escalate, saying a fuel levy is needed to increase our domestic reserves.
The white paper has a positive assessment of China’s development and the China-Australia relationship but it made some irresponsible comments on the South China Sea,” a foreign ministry spokesperson said at a press conference on Thursday.
“Australia is not directly involved. It has said repeatedly it does not take sides. We would like them to stop making irresponsible comments.”
Australia’s emphasis on partnerships with like-minded Indo-Pacific democracies in its Foreign Policy White Paper is being viewed in Beijing as an attempt to exclude China.
The white paper, which was released on Thursday, recognises that China is a rising power that is challenging the position of the United States. The paper outlines a strategy to balance power in the region by not just relying on the US alliance but also seeking out partnerships with countries in the region such as Japan, India, Indonesia and South Korea.
Liu Qing, head of the Asia-Pacific department at the foreign-ministry linked China Institute of International Studies, said this new strategic focus on the Indo-Pacific demonstrated Australia’s “contradictory” approach to China.
“On the one hand, there are positive comments on the Australia-China relationship and the paper talks about its importance,” he said.
“However, it also puts an emphasis on the Indo-Pacific, which displeases China. These partners don’t include China. This implies Australia wants to exclude China.”