Australian Ex-PM Warns China Could ‘Lash Out Disastrously Soon’ Amid Soaring Taiwan Tensions
© AP Photo / Lai Seng SinFormer Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks during a joint press conference
© AP Photo / Lai Seng Sin
After China sent almost 150 military aircraft close to Taiwan in recent days against the backdrop of drills conducted by the US and other allied forces in the South China Sea, Taiwanese Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng warned on Wednesday that Beijing might mount a full-scale invasion of the island nation by 2025.
Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has warned that amid heightened tensions with Taiwan, China could “lash out disastrously quite soon”.
Abbott, speaking in Taipei City on Friday at the annual Yushan forum, a conference organised by the Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation, referred to the recent “intimidatory sorties against Taiwan” carried out by Beijing and called on democracies to show “solidarity” with the island.
“Sensing that its relative power might have peaked with its population ageing, economy slowing and finances creaking, it is quite possible that Beijing could lash out disastrously quite soon. Our challenge is to try to make sure that the unthinkable remains unlikely and that the possible does not become the probable,” said Abbott.
Abbott, visiting Taiwan to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen in a private capacity, was speaking after a weekend when China flew dozens of military jets near Taiwan while US and other allied forces conducted drills in the South China Sea.
China has repeatedly warned of the volatile situation in the Taiwan Strait, earlier in the year slamming Washington for allegedly undermining stability in the waterway after its warships yet again passed through in a “provocative” manner.
“That's why Taiwan's friends are so important now, to stress that Taiwan's future should be decided by its own people and to let Beijing know that any attempt at coercion would have incalculable consequences,” said the ex-prime minister.
The island nation of Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China, is seen by Beijing as a breakaway Chinese territory that must be returned to the jurisdiction of the mainland. Taiwan, long a self-governing nation, has consistently stated that it will protect its autonomy at any cost, having purchased billions of dollars of weapons from the US over the years.
© AP Photo / Zenaida RothIn this photo released by the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) conducts routine operations in the Taiwan Strait, May 18, 2021.
In this photo released by the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) conducts routine operations in the Taiwan Strait, May 18, 2021.
© AP Photo / Zenaida Roth
Abbott suggested that the US and Australia would likely join Taiwan in repelling any possible Chinese military aggression.
“I don't believe America could stand by and watch [Taiwan] swallowed up. I don't believe Australia would be indifferent to the fate of a fellow democracy of almost 25 million people,” he said at the Yushan Forum.
Abbott, who led Australia from 2013 to 2015, lambasted China, claiming it had “flown ever-more intimidatory sorties against Taiwan.”
He continued his diatribe against Beijing, saying:
“It's weaponised trade, especially against Australia, with our barley, wine and coal exports all stopped on spurious safety grounds, and its embassy has published 14 demands - essentially that we become a tributary state - that no self-respecting country could accept… The trigger for all this was politely seeking an impartial inquiry into the origins of the [corona]virus. So this year I'm here having concluded that China's belligerence is all self-generated.”
Tony Abbott nevertheless underscored China's economic growth, saying "collaboration is still possible, and trust could yet be rebuilt."
Amid mounting tensions between China and the island, Taiwanese Defense Minister Chiu Kuo Cheng noted on Wednesday that military exchanges were likely between the two in just a few years' time.
During a parliamentary appearance, the minister acknowledged that the current situation with China elevated concerns regarding the possibility of a "misfire" over the Taiwan Strait.
"For me as a military man, the urgency is right in front of me," he said.
"By 2025, China will bring the cost and attrition to its lowest. It has the capacity now, but it will not start a war easily, having to take many other things into consideration," he added, indicating that Taiwanese officials see the possibility of a military invasion by China in the next few years.