Australian Defence Minister Labelled a 'Lunatic' After Warning About a 'Chemical Attack' From China
The comments by the Australian defence minister come ahead of a federal election in the country, set to take place on 21 May. Canberra’s strained ties with Beijing, otherwise its largest trading partner, have taken a centrestage during the ongoing election campaign, with the incumbent government accusing the opposition of being “weak” on China.
Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton has been accused of whipping hysteria over China after he claimed in an interview that Beijing could launch a “chemical warfare attack” on an Australian “ally” in the next four years.
“Is Peter Dutton defense chief or the propaganda chief? In short, he must be psychologically distorted. I hope Australia is a normal country that can identify this lunatic,” Hu Xijin, the former editor of China’s state-backed Global Times stated on Sunday.
Another observer described Dutton’s comments as a “classic case of lunatics running the asylum”.
In the interview given to News Corp Australia, Dutton also doubled down on his previous statements about China’s growing “military strength and strategic position”.
“I think the circumstances are as dire as they were in the 1930s. I’m happy to present the facts … and then people can draw their own conclusions,” Dutton stated during an interview given to News Corp Australia.
The Australian minister said that he was in favour of having a “normalised relationship” with every country, including China.
“But China has changed. And it’s going to take money to respond to that both in terms of additional personnel as well as investment in technologies and equipment,” reckoned Dutton.
He then said that Australian forces must maintain their military and naval capabilities “be prepared for what a year ago would have been inconceivable”.
“It’s conceivable that there could be a chemical warfare attack on a capital city of one of our allies and so could be drawn back into a conflict in the Middle-East,” Dutton said.
The defence minister also alluded to the conflict in Ukraine during his interview, albeit he didn't directly name any country.
“Right now, changes of the world, of our times, of our history, are unfolding in ways like never before,” he said, adding that these changes "are posing challenges that must be taken seriously by humanity".
Dutton also hit out at senior opposition politician
and the shadow foreign minister Penny Wong, saying that Beijing would play her “like a fool”.
Dutton claimed that Wong’s strategy to deal with China by working out the differences between the two capitals through a bilateral visit was “dangerous”.
“She believes that she could embark effectively on an appeasement strategy that I think is frankly quite dangerous,” he remarked, adding that Wong’s “so-called charm” would be unable to sway Beijing.
Leader of Opposition and Prime Ministerial contender Anthony Albanese has described the pact as a “policy failure” on part of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government.
In spite of being criticised for his hyperbole commentary against Beijing, Dutton stuck to his remarks in an interview given to Australian broadcaster Sky News on Sunday morning.
“I am trying to give people a realistic understanding of what it is I am seeing without divulging the sensitive nature of intelligence,” Dutton said.
“We live in a very precarious time and we should be open and honest to the Australian people about that,” he also remarked.
Dutton’s scathing criticism of Labor’s China policy comes against the backdrop of his own Liberal government being criticised for unable to anticipate a security pact between China and Solomon Islands
, which lies just around 2,000 kilomnteres from Australia’s north-eastern coast.
“China‘s incredibly aggressive. The acts of foreign interference, the preparedness to pay bribes to get outcomes, to beat other countries to get deals,” Dutton told Sky News, when asked why his government failed to stop the security deal between Beijing and Honiara.
“That’s the reality of modern China,” he asserted.