The Foreign Minister of Australia, Penny Wong, warns that the country is at a heightened risk of conflict, a level unseen for many years, following a series of large-scale military exercises performed by China in the Indo-Pacific region.
Ahead of a United Nations (UN) summit taking place in New York this coming Tuesday, Wong expressed her concerns about China’s escalating power in this intensely disputed region. She stressed the importance of collaborating with a host of nations to prevent any single country from gaining the upper hand.
In her conversation with CNN, Wong portrayed our times as possessing the riskiest strategic backdrop globally that we’ve seen in numerous years. She noted that countries like Australia, given their status as middle powers, along with other sovereign nations attending the UN, have a critical responsibility to prompt and inspire the world’s superpowers to navigate their rivalries wisely.
The alarm concerning the surge in tensions was raised in the wake of China launching a series of military drills in the Taiwan Strait. Displayed earlier this week, this represented a significant projection of power against allied forces.
On Monday, Taiwan’s defense ministry urgently called upon Beijing to halt its “destructive, unilateral action” as more than 100 Chinese warplanes and nine naval vessels were witnessed in proximity to the island. This happened mere days after over fifty Chinese-owned warplanes were noted near Taiwanese airspace.
China justified this display of strength as a response to joint military exercises executed by the US, Australia, and Japan in the preceding weeks, alluding that their forces remain on “high alert.”
U.S President, Joe Biden, reassured he had no intentions of provoking direct conflict with China, yet promised to counter any forms of aggression and intimidation. Biden ensured his country’s approach was to responsibly manage the rivalry between the nations, focusing on preventing destabilization into physical conflict.
Wong agreed with Biden’s stance of responsibly governing the circumstances in the Indo-Pacific and amplified the call for the United Nations countries to reinforce their commitment to preserving stability.
Commenting on this, Wong said, “great powers do what great powers do”. Continuing, she underscored a shared global sentiment, “What we don’t want, and what the world doesn’t want, is competition that escalates to conflict.”
In another vein, Wong expressed her severe apprehension over accusations alleging that India was responsible for the murder of a Sikh man in Canada. She remained tight-lipped about whether the Australian government had any recent discussions with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau following his public indictment of the Indian government.
Concerning Australia’s questionable climate record, including the government’s recent endorsement of coal mines, Wong admitted it was a sizeable challenge, recognizing Australia as a “fossil fuel reliant nation.” However, she affirmed Australia’s recognition of its history and the nature of its economy, asserting a sincere drive towards change.