Peter Dutton’s rhetoric on Beijing is ?incendiary and unnecessary? The Premier of Western Australia said
Western Australia’s Premier Mark McGowan on Monday called Defense Minister Peter Dutton “the biggest threat to national security” after Dutton called the sailing of a Chinese warship beyond the coast of Australia as an “aggressive act”. While the navigation alarmed Australian authorities, McGowan insisted that Australia and the US regularly do the same thing to China.
Dutton announced last week that a Chinese ship had sailed south along Australia’s west coast, before hugging the coastline on its way back to the northeast. Staying within 250 nautical miles of Australian shores on its way northeast, the Chinese ship was intended to “gather intelligence along the coast,” Dutton said.
“I think it’s an aggressive act and I think so particularly because it has come so far south. That it has come south of Exmouth is unprecedented,” he said, referring to the southernmost point, a Royal Australian Air Force base, which the ship passed before returning to the northeast.
Speaking at a campaign event with Labor leader Anthony Albanese, McGowan was asked if he agreed with Dutton’s claim that Chinese shipping was “dangerous”.
“No, it wasn’t,” he said. “Foreign warships transit the exclusive economic zones of other countries; we do it in the waters off China, the United States does it in the waters off China.”
“The exclusive economic zone is to protect things like fishing rights, oil and gas and all that kind of stuff,” he continued, referring to the boundary the Chinese ship was sailing past. “It doesn’t stop ship traffic, it was never designed to stop ship traffic.”
“[Dutton’s] language about war and about ‘we have to be prepared to fight’…it’s very dangerous and it’s against the national interest,” McGowan added. “It’s incendiary and unnecessary and I think he’s the biggest threat to national security.” . “
Dutton’s ministry and Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government have focused squarely on China in recent weeks. Canberra accused Beijing of “dangerous and reckless” behavior in February after a Chinese ship allegedly aimed a laser at an Australian surveillance plane.
The signing of a security pact between China and the Solomon Islands – located some 2,000km off Australia’s northeastern coast – has also stoked fears about Chinese expansion into the Pacific, prompting Morrison to warn Beijing last month. not to cross a “red line” by establishing a military base in the Solomon Islands. Beijing denies that it is planning to build such a base.
However, McGowan claimed that Dutton’s decision to publicize Chinese shipping was “just political” ahead of next week’s federal election.
An official statement from the Australian Ministry of Defense was also noticeably more measured than Dutton’s rhetoric.
“Australia respects the right of all states to exercise freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace, just as we expect others to respect our right to do the same,” the statement read. “[We] We will continue to monitor the ship’s operation on our maritime approaches.”