Australian Home Affairs Secretary Michael Pezzullo said Australia should be ready for war amid ongoing tensions with China, and must do whatever it takes to protect “our precious liberty”.
“Today, as free nations again hear the beating drums and watch worryingly the militarisation of issues that we had, until recent years, thought unlikely to be catalysts for war, let us continue to search unceasingly for the chance for peace while bracing again, yet again, for the curse of war”, Pezzullo pointed out in his Anzac Day message on Sunday.
He admitted that waging wars might well be wrong, but “the greater folly is to wish away the curse by refusing to give it thought and attention, as if in so doing, war might leave us be, forgetting us perhaps”, as the minister put it, saying “the drums of war” sometimes beat faintly, and at times much louder.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton, for his part, drew the public’s attention to the military build-up in the Pacific, suggesting there is a “significant amount of (military) activity” there amid an “animosity” between Taiwan and China, with Beijing claiming the former is its territory under the "One China” policy.
According to Dutton, China has in recent time been clear about Taiwan:
“If you look at any of the rhetoric that is coming out of China, from spokesmen particularly in recent weeks and months in response to different suggestions that have been made, they have been very clear about that goal”, he told the ABC.
"For us, we want to make sure we continue to be a good neighbour in the region, that we work with our partners and with our allies, as nobody wants to see conflict between China and Taiwan or anywhere else".
According to a Newsweek report last week, Taiwan planned to launch one of its largest military drills, the annual Han Kuang exercise. Phase one of the exercise was supposed to include a computer simulation of a full-scale Chinese invasion, which Taiwan’s Armed Forces would train to resist. Phase two is reportedly scheduled for mid-July.
Australia's relationship with China, its top trading partner, started to significantly deteriorate in April last year, when Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus, which was first registered in Wuhan in the country's Hubei province in December 2019.
Such calls enraged Beijing, which moved to slap arbitrary bans and tariffs on billions of dollars’ worth of Australian goods, including barley, wine, cotton, and others.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne announced last week that Victoria's Belt and Road Initiative agreement with Beijing had been cancelled under new foreign veto powers.
The Chinese Embassy in Australia responded shortly, expressing “strong displeasure and resolute opposition” to the politician’s announcement.