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Australia and China tension returns as Beijing lashes out at Penny Wong over Taiwan

China has lashed out at Penny Wong after she condemned the Communist regime for firing 11 ballistic missiles over Taiwan. 

The aggressive military exercises were part of a dummy spit response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, which China claims jurisdiction over.

Foreign Minister Wong said China’s sabre rattling, which also included launching missiles near Japan, were ‘disproportionate and destabilising’. 

‘We are seriously concerned and strongly discontent with the remarks on the situation across the Taiwan Strait by the foreign ministers of Australia, Japan and the Secretary of State of the US,’ China’s Embassy in Canberra said in response.

China has slammed Australia’s Foreign Affairs minister Penny Wong (pictured) for daring to criticise it for firing ballistic missiles over Taiwan.

‘It is absolutely unacceptable for the finger-pointing on China’s justified actions to safeguard state sovereignty and territorial integrity. 

‘We firmly oppose and sternly condemn this.’

The embassy also brought up 60-year-old history between Australia and Japan to argue Senator Wong should not take its side.

‘Australia was also the victim of Japan’s fascists in World War II,’ it said. ‘Japan is the only country that launched a military attack on the Australian mainland.’

Australia and Japan have become close strategic partners in the past two decades, and cooperate to counter China’s aggression in the region. 

Senator Wong, Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met on the sidelines of an ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting in Cambodia this week.

‘The Secretary and the Foreign Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,’ Australia, Japan and US’s most senior diplomats said in a joint statement.

‘They appreciated ASEAN’s statement about the importance of de-escalating tension in the Taiwan Strait.

‘They condemned the People’s Republic of China’s launch of ballistic missiles, five of which the Japanese government reported landed in its exclusive economic zones, raising tension and destabilising the region.

‘The secretary and the foreign ministers urged the PRC to immediately cease the military exercises.’

Chinese anti-aircraft batteries take part in military drills aimed at intimidating Taiwan, which it claims belongs to it

Chinese anti-aircraft batteries take part in military drills aimed at intimidating Taiwan, which it claims belongs to it

Beijing’s threatening stance over Taiwan and Japan is Australia’s biggest diplomatic dispute since Labor won power at the Federal Election on May 21. 

China’s military tantrum was after Ms Pelosi, 82, visited Taiwan for an overnight trip, making her the highest ranking American official to do so in decades.

Her visit showed the US was ‘the biggest saboteur and destabiliser of peace in the Taiwan Strait and the biggest troublemaker to regional stability,’ a Chinese diplomat claimed.

‘It is the US that should be condemned. China is the victim of political provocation from the US,’ China’s Canberra embassy added.

Cabinet minister Chris Bowen backed up Senator Wong after China’s stern response, saying Australia would remain clear and calm in its interactions with China but not shy away from calling the nation out.

‘China’s reaction to (Ms Pelosi’s visit) is over the top… obviously it is a time for clear and calm heads,’ the climate change minister told 9 News on Sunday.

‘We’re going to act in Australia’s national interests and in accordance with our values… we will say what we believe should happen in the region and we will make statements even if other nations don’t agree with those.’

Poll

Should Australia fight on behalf of Taiwan?

  • Yes, it’s the right thing to do 258 votes
  • No, it’s not our problem 159 votes
  • I’m not sure, it’s complicated 80 votes

Australia’s relationship with China became very strained in recent years as the Communist power retaliated with trade tariffs after Australia called for an investigation into the origins of Covid-19.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese hoped relations would improve with the change of government. 

‘What we’re preparing for is strengthening our alliances,’ he said on Monday, before Ms Pelosi visited Taiwan.

‘We want to have good relationships with China and cooperate where we can, but we’ll stand up for Australian values where we must.

‘That is my approach to the relationship with China. Clearly it’s changed in recent years.

‘Under [President] Xi, China has become more forward leaning, more aggressive in the region. We have strategic competition,’ Mr Albanese said.

Any hopes of quick reset in Australia-China diplomatic relations have been dealt a severe blow in recent days, with five ballistic missiles landing in waters near Japan. 

China also flew drones around Japan’s Sakishima Islands and fighter jets close to Taiwan’s main island. 

Mr Albanese dodged a question about whether Australia would defend Taiwan if it was attacked by China.

A Chinese Xian H-6 bomber is pictured in the skies over the Taiwan Strait, amid huge military drills effectively blockading the island

A Chinese Xian H-6 bomber is pictured in the skies over the Taiwan Strait, amid huge military drills effectively blockading the island

He said although Australia supports a ‘One China’ policy – under which China claims Taiwan is part of the country and not a separate state – ‘we also support the status quo when it comes to the issue of Taiwan, that people respect the existing structures that are there’.

‘I believe that clearly is in the interests of all parties, and I have taken the view as well that it is not in the interests of peace and security to talk up those issues of potential conflict,’ he told CNN.

On Sunday morning, opposition defence spokesman Andrew Hastie said Australia will be ‘in the gun’ in any conflict over Taiwan.

He said Australia must work faster on missiles, nuclear submarines, fuel and ammunition stocks.

‘The point is that if there was a conflict around Taiwan, whether we’re involved directly or indirectly on the periphery we would certainly be in the gun,’ he told the ABC.

‘And that’s why we need to build our deterrent strength, that’s why we need to exercise exceptional political leadership, diplomatic leadership.’

Yet Mr Hastie supported Senator Wong’s diplomatic engagement with China and Taiwan.

‘Miscommunication, miscalculation, is at the highest risk and allowing a little bit of space for… all parties involved to give each other the benefit of the doubt is really important,’ he said.

‘Things are a little bit tense at the moment… in the end we need to continue to engage with China and Taiwan.’

Why China set its sights on Taiwan

Taiwanese soldiers hoist the flag of Taiwan in Taipei on May 10. China considers Taiwan as a part of its territory, but many Taiwanese people want the island to be independent

Taiwanese soldiers hoist the flag of Taiwan in Taipei on May 10. China considers Taiwan as a part of its territory, but many Taiwanese people want the island to be independent

China and Taiwan have a long-standing dispute over the island’s sovereignty. 

China considers Taiwan as a part of its territory, more precisely a province, but many Taiwanese want the island to be independent.

From 1683 to 1895, Taiwan was ruled by China’s Qing dynasty. After Japan claimed its victory in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Qing government forced to cede Taiwan to Japan.

The island was under the Republic of China’s ruling after World War II, with the consent of its allies the US and UK.

The leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party, Chiang Kai-shek, fled to Taiwan in 1949 and established his government after losing the Civil War to the Communist Party and its leader Mao Zedong.

Chiang’s son continued to rule Taiwan after his father and began democratising Taiwan.

In 1980, China put forward a formula called ‘one country, two systems’, under which Taiwan would be given significant autonomy if it accepted Chinese reunification. Taiwan rejected the offer.

Taiwan today, with its own constitution and democratically-elected leaders, is widely accepted in the West as an independent state. But its political status remains unclear.

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