Canberra Blames Beijing for ‘Disconnect Between Words and Actions’ to Maintain South China Sea Peace
Relations between China and Australia deteriorated last year, when Beijing imposed tariffs on Australian barley imports in retaliation for the Pacific nation's demand for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus.
Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton has lashed out at China over Beijing’s actions that he said were out of line with the Chinese government’s rhetoric about maintaining peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.
“We're all familiar with the frequent claims of the Chinese government that it is committed to peace, cooperation and development. And yet we bear witness to a significant disconnect between the words and the actions. We've watched very closely as the Chinese government has engaged in increasingly alarming activities”, Dutton said during an address to the National Press Club.
He singled out Beijing’s activities in the South China Sea, the Chinese authorities’ stance on the Taiwan issue and the introduction of a national security law in Hong Kong.
Beijing claims most of the islands in the South China Sea
, which are also claimed by a number of countries, including the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, and Malaysia. The Chinese government, in particular, considers the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea as its territory, despite an international tribunal ruling that these claims have no legal basis.
Beijing recently reiterated that China remains opposed to any outside efforts to interfere in the issue of Taiwan
and will continue to protect its territorial integrity. China considers Taiwan to be a breakaway province, while the island, governed independently since 1949, maintains that it is an autonomous country, and has political and economic relations with several other nations which recognise its sovereignty.
The national security law was enacted in Hong Kong, a former UK colony, in late June.
Beijing and the Hong Kong government argue that the new law only serves the purpose of safeguarding China's national security, while respecting people’s liberties as well as the city’s special status. However, many Western countries view the law as something that undermines Hong Kong’s autonomy, which Beijing pledged under the joint declaration with the UK in 1984.
China Slams US' 'Outdated Mentality'
The Chinese embassy in Canberra has, meanwhile, reacted angrily to Dutton’s remarks, claiming that he distorted China’s foreign policy, misled the Australian people and was "fanning conflict and division between peoples and nations”.
“It is inconceivable that China-Australia relationship will take on a good momentum […] if the Australian government bases its national strategy on such visionless analysis and outdated mentality”, the embassy underscored.
The statement came after Dutton made it clear in mid-November that Australia will loyally join the US in defending Taiwan in the event of a confrontation with China. This followed remarks by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken who assured the international community that America was not alone in its efforts to “preserve peace and stability” in the Taiwan Strait.
23 November 2021, 06:48 GMT
Relations between China and Australia soured in May 2020, when Beijing slapped 80 percent tariffs on barley imports from Australia in retaliation for the Pacific nation's Prime Minister Scott Morrison's demand for an international probe into the origins of the COVID-19.
China then imposed similar tariffs on Australian coal, copper, wine, and lobster, and in December, Beijing banned timber imports from the Australian states of South Australia and Tasmania after some pests were detected in the inbound cargo.