Peter Dutton warns of potential chemical attack and says China would play Penny Wong ‘like a fool’

Peter Dutton has warned Australia should prepare for a chemical weapon attack on one of its allies and claimed China would play Penny Wong ‘like a fool’. 

Australia’s Defence Minister described the country’s strategic position as ‘dire’, comparing it with the nation’s position in the lead up to the Second World War in the 1930s. 

‘We want a normalised peaceful relationship with every country, including China. But China has changed,’ the minister told the Daily Telegraph.  

‘It’s conceivable that there could be a chemical warfare attack on a capital city of one of our allies and so you could be drawn back into a conflict in the Middle East.’  

Australia’s Defence Minister described the country’s strategic position as as ‘dire’ as it was in the lead up to the Second World War in the 1930s

The defence minister also hit out at Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong (pictured) and said China would play the politician 'like a fool'

The defence minister also hit out at Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong (pictured) and said China would play the politician ‘like a fool’

Mr Dutton said while it was in Australia’s best interests to have a good relationship with China we weren’t going to be ‘subservient or cower to them’. 

He said the country’s military and naval capacities had to be prepared for a situation that just a year ago would have been ‘inconceivable’ and more had to be spent on defence to maintain peace and stability with the eastern power. 

The defence minister also hit out at Penny Wong and said China would play the Opposition spokesperson for Foreign Affairs ‘like a fool’. 

He claimed that Ms Wong believed she could resolve issues between the two countries if she paid a visit to Beijing and called her strategy ‘dangerous’. 

‘She believes that she could embark effectively on an appeasement strategy that I think is frankly quite dangerous,’ he said. 

Mr Dutton said while it was in Australia's best interests to have a good relationship with China we weren't going to be 'subservient or cower to them' (pictured, Chinese troops in 2021)

Mr Dutton said while it was in Australia’s best interests to have a good relationship with China we weren’t going to be ‘subservient or cower to them’ (pictured, Chinese troops in 2021)

Mr Dutton said China’s actions against India and movements in the South and East China Sea meant the power would not be swayed by Ms Wong’s ‘so-called charm’.  

‘They’d laugh under their breath and Penny’d think “well, well, if we pull back on the AUKUS deal, and show that as a sign of good faith to the Chinese, they would enter into good faith negotiations with us”. They’d play her like a fool,’ he said.

His comments about of the shadow minister comes after his own party were criticised for not doing enough to deter a security pact between China and the Solomon Islands.

There are fears the deal between the two countries will mean China could build a military base less than 2,000km from Australian shores.

Prime Minister Scott Mr Morrison has said the Solomon Islands government had stated it would not allow any Chinese naval bases under the deal.

On Sunday morning Mr Dutton left open the suggestion that China may have bribed the Solomons to sign the deal. 

‘They’ve got a port in Sri Lanka, where they’ve taken that port back because the Sri Lankans couldn’t pay for the debt that they’d incurred from the Chinese in building that port,’ the Defence Minister told Sky News.

‘If you look at what’s happened in Africa, there are corrupt payments being made – we could never compete with that sort of playbook.’

But Mr Dutton didn’t go as far as suggesting the same had occurred in the Solomon Island. 

‘It’s not something that I can comment on.

‘China’s incredibly aggressive – the acts of foreign interference, the preparedness to pay bribes to get outcomes, and to beat other countries to deals – that’s the reality of the modern China.’

Mr Dutton said China's actions against India and movements in the South and East China Sea meant the power would not be swayed by Ms Wong's 'so-called charm'

Mr Dutton said China’s actions against India and movements in the South and East China Sea meant the power would not be swayed by Ms Wong’s ‘so-called charm’

There are fears a security pact between China and Solomon Island will mean the superpower could build a military base less than 2,000km from Australian shores (pictured, members of the Communist Party of China in April, 2021)

There are fears a security pact between China and Solomon Island will mean the superpower could build a military base less than 2,000km from Australian shores (pictured, members of the Communist Party of China in April, 2021)

Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce didn’t rule out the possibility of a Chinese base in the Solomons.

‘(It’s) dual-purpose, which means China is able, if they follow through, to set up a military base there,’ he said.

‘That’s a very bad day for Australia. We don’t want our own little Cuba off our coast.’

Ms Payne in a joint statement with Pacific minister Zed Seselja said they were ‘deeply disappointed’ by the deal.

‘We are concerned about the lack of transparency with which this agreement has been developed, noting its potential to undermine stability in our region,’ the statement read.

‘We continue to seek further clarity on the terms of the agreement, and its consequences for the Pacific region.’

Meanwhile, Ms Wong has pledged to repair Australia’s battered relationship with China if Labor is voted in next month after two years of hostilities.   

Ms Wong has pledged to repair Australia's battered relationship with China if Labor is voted in next month after two years of hostilities

Ms Wong has pledged to repair Australia’s battered relationship with China if Labor is voted in next month after two years of hostilities

She told the Guardian’s Australian Politics Podcast that recent tactics by Scott Morrison to paint Labor as soft on China will only make the situation worse.

The Prime Minister in February branded Labor deputy leader Richard Marles a ‘Manchurian candidate’ after he called for closer defence ties with China on a trip to Beijing in 2019.

Ms Wong said the extraordinary attack to portray the Opposition as weak on national security and a puppet of an enemy power, was an act of ‘desperation by the government’.

‘It is also a trashing of Australia’s national interests because one of the things that makes us strongest is our unity,’ she said.

‘What we won’t do is play domestic politics with the China relationship.’

***
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk