Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has warned that China could launch a “devastating attack” on Taiwan very soon.
In a speech in Taipei, Abbott denounced China’s growing belligerence towards Taiwan and said Australia should not be indifferent to its fate. Abbott – who signed a free trade agreement with China as prime minister – recalled the warm relations between China and Australia in those days.
“A lot has changed in just six years, but it is not Australia’s goodwill towards the people of China, of whom nearly a million are now Australian and contributing well to our country,” he said.
Abbott said that Australia has no dispute with China. “We welcome business, investment and visits – no more about China having chewing gum on its boot.”
He added that if “war drums” could be heard in the region – as Home Affairs Secretary Mike Pezzulo said in April – “it is not Australia that is defeating them.
“We only beat the drums for justice and freedom – freedom for all people in China and Taiwan to make their own decisions about their lives and their future,” Abbott said.
“But China does not see it as such, as evidenced by its growing belligerence towards Taiwan. Realizing that its relative power may be peaking, with its population aging, its economy is slowing down. and its finances are crumbling, it is quite possible that Beijing will be out catastrophically very soon.”
Abbott said that “our challenge is to try and ensure that the unimaginable is not likely and is not possible.”
“That’s why Taiwan’s friends are so important now: to insist that Taiwan’s future should be decided by its own people and to tell Beijing that any attempt at coercion will have incalculable consequences.”
Abbott’s visit comes at a time of high tension between China and Taiwan, with China repeatedly sending large numbers of military aircraft into Taiwan’s air defenses.
Taiwan’s defense minister claimed this week that military tensions between China and Taiwan were at their worst in more than 40 years.
Asked about the visit earlier this week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was a private visit and Abbott was not giving any official message.
“Tony is in Taiwan as a private citizen, and I haven’t had any conversations with him before that.”
But Abbott was given VIP treatment and high-level government meetings during his visit.
Australia diplomatically has a “one China” policy, but Australia and Taiwan have close economic ties, including trade and investment, and before the pandemic, including tourism.
In his speech, Abbott said that China has created a new quadrilateral security dialogue (between the United States, Australia, Japan and India) “because it is so unfair”.
“And the more aggressive it is, the more adversaries it has,” Abbott said.
He said the US State Department has just confirmed that the US commitment to Taiwan is “rock solid”.
“I don’t think America can stand up and watch Taiwan being swallowed up. I don’t think Australia should be indifferent to the fate of a fellow democracy of about 25 million people.”
Abbott observed that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had put it well when he said that the US would be competitive with China, ally when it could be, and adversarial when it should be.
“Provided it is genuine, cooperation is still possible and trust can be rebuilt. But Taiwan will be the test,” Abbott said.
He said Taiwan should be welcomed into the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
But China, which is seeking to join the trade deal, “could never join the TPP while engaging in trade war with Australia and all-out in predatory trade”.