Scott Morrison warns that war with China IS possible and slams ‘economic coercion’ after Beijing banned Australian beef and barley
- Former PM Kevin Rudd said a ‘hot war’ between US and China could break out
- Scott Morrison on Wednesday said his government considered it a possibility
- He also slammed ‘economic coercion’ after Beijing banned beef and barley
The Prime Minister was responding to an article by former leader Kevin Rudd who wrote on Tuesday that a ‘hot war’ between the superpowers could break out for the first time since the end of the Korean War in 1953.
In an interview with US think tank the Aspen Institute, Mr Morrison said he would not use the phrase ‘hot war’ but admitted that armed conflict is possible.
Chinese soldiers march with the national flag at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on October 1, 2019
‘Our defence update expresses it differently and certainly not as dramatically, as Kevin has,’ he said.
‘But we have acknowledged that what was previously inconceivable and not considered even possible or likely in terms of those types of outcomes, is not considered in those contexts anymore.
‘So there has been a change, there has obviously been a change and I don’t think that’s terribly remarkable.’
Mr Rudd warned that ‘a dangerous political and strategic cocktail’ threatened peace as Donald Trump and Joe Biden criticise China to to win votes ahead of this year’s election and Beijing asserts itself in the Indo-Pacific.
The region faces growing instability after a brutal border dispute between India and China in the Himalayan mountains that killed at least 20 soldiers and with ongoing Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea.
Military vehicles carrying DF-5B intercontinental ballistic missiles participate in a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on October 1, 2019
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on the flight deck as a EA-18G Growler lands on the USS Ronald Reagan, off the coast of Queensland on 12 July, 2019
Mr Morrison also criticised China’s use of ‘economic coercion’ after Beijing banned Australian barley and some beef exports following Canberra’s call for an investigation into the origins of coronavirus.
‘Economic coercion is increasingly employed as a tool of statecraft,’ he said.
The Prime Minister called for China to ‘enhance regional and global stability’ rather than focus on a ‘narrow, national, or aspirational interest.
‘China and the United States have a special responsibility to uphold a common set of rules that build an international society,’ he said.
‘That means respecting international law and the peaceful resolution of disputes including trade disputes.
‘It means a commitment to rules-based economic interaction. Neither coercion of abdication from the international system is the way forward.’
The government has said it will challenge China’s ban on Australian barley via the World Trade Organisation.
Australia in June launched six warships into the Indo-Pacific for training operations ahead of huge show of force in the region with the US Navy. Pictured: HMA Ships Stuart (foreground), Hobart and Canberra (background) depart Fleet Base East in Sydney
Beijing and Canberra have been at loggerheads in recent weeks after Australia led global calls for an inquiry into the origins of Covid-19, which first surfaced in Wuhan late last year.
China retaliated by slapping an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley, suspending beef imports and telling students and tourists not to travel Down Under in an apparent attempt to damage the Australian economy.
Last month the federal government announced it will spend $270billion over the next ten years on beefing up the Australian Defence Force with state-of-the-art equipment including long-range missiles and new artillery systems amid the strategic and political tensions.
On 19 June China was blamed for a massive cyber-attack on Australia amid an escalating feud between the two nations.
Later that month Australia launched six warships into the Indo-Pacific for training operations ahead of huge show of force in the region with the US Navy.
How China’s feud with Australia has escalated
2019: Australian intelligence services conclude that China was responsible for a cyber-attack on Australia’s parliament and three largest political parties in the run-up to a May election.
April 2020: Australian PM Scott Morrison begins canvassing his fellow world leaders for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. Britain and France are initially reluctant but more than 100 countries eventually back an investigation.
April 15: Morrison is one of the few leaders to voice sympathy with Donald Trump’s criticisms of the World Health Organization, which the US president accuses of bias towards China.
April 21: China’s embassy accuses Australian foreign minister Peter Dutton of ‘ignorance and bigotry’ and ‘parroting what those Americans have asserted’ after he called for China to be more transparent about the outbreak.
April 23: Australia’s agriculture minister David Littleproud calls for G20 nations to campaign against the ‘wet markets’ which are common in China and linked to the earliest coronavirus cases.
April 26: Chinese ambassador Cheng Jingye hints at a boycott of Australian wine and beef and says tourists and students might avoid Australia ‘while it’s not so friendly to China’. Canberra dismisses the threat and warns Beijing against ‘economic coercion’.
May 11: China suspends beef imports from four of Australia’s largest meat processors. These account for more than a third of Australia’s $1.1billion beef exports to China.
May 18: The World Health Organization backs a partial investigation into the pandemic, but China says it is a ‘joke’ for Australia to claim credit. The same day, China imposes an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley. Australia says it may challenge this at the WTO.
May 21: China announces new rules for iron ore imports which could allow Australian imports – usually worth $41billion per year – to be singled out for extra bureaucratic checks.
June 5: Beijing warns tourists against travelling to Australia, alleging racism and violence against the Chinese in connection with Covid-19.
June 9: China’s Ministry of Education warns students to think carefully about studying in Australia, similarly citing alleged racist incidents.
June 19: Australia says it is under cyber-attack from a foreign state which government sources say is believed to be China. The attack has been targeting industry, schools, hospitals and government officials, Morrison says.