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Canberra prepares for Taiwan conflict as tensions escalate
The Australian government has sharply escalated its internal preparations for potential military action in the Taiwan Strait.
This is part of a broader show of force by the US and its allies at forcing China to back down on its incursions into the island state’s air space and isolate its economic partners.
Sources have told AFR Weekend that the Australian Defence Force was planning for a potential worst-case scenario if the United States and China clashed over Taiwan, prompting debate over the scope and scale of Canberra’s contribution to what would be an unprecedented conflict in the region.
Options include contributing to an allied effort with submarines, as well as maritime surveillance aircraft, air-to-air refuellers and potentially Super Hornet fighters operating from US bases in Guam or the Philippines, and even Japan.
The intensification has been welcomed as long overdue by seasoned Taiwan watchers, who warn that China’s growing aggression towards the island and the renewed US resolve to help Taipei defend itself could spiral out of control and into a catastrophic open conflict.
Concern is mounting throughout the region, and Taiwan accuses China of sending 25 military aircraft into its air defence identification zone this week – a record incursion.
The chief of Australia’s Defence Force, Angus Campbell, cautioned that conflict in the Taiwan Strait would be “disastrous” and urged Beijing to resolve its differences with Taiwan’s leaders through dialogue.
Meanwhile Jacinda Adern’s “Taniwha” is cosying up to the dragon
Australian military ramps up preparation for ‘worst case scenario’ of all-out war with China over Taiwan in the next five years
- Australian Defence Force begins preparations over potential war over Taiwan
- Seen as a strategy to force China to cease military incursions over Taiwan Strait
- Pressure remains on Australia to align with Japan, India and the US on the issue
17 April, 2021
The Australian Defence Force is war-gaming what its combat role would be in a potential military conflict with China over Taiwan, sources have revealed.
Military officials in Canberra have been planning out ‘worst case’ scenarios in which Collins-class submarines and Super Hornet fighter jets would be deployed to the Taiwan Strait to assist the United States and other regional strategic allies.
China has become increasingly aggressive in the region, stamping out pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong and cracking down on Muslims minorities in Xinjiang.
It is now feared the authoritarian state will turn its military might to Taiwan as it looks to re-unify the island under President-for-life Xi Jinping.
China has repeatedly incurred on Taipei’s maritime borders and air space and this week it sent a record 25 military aircraft into into the defence ‘identification zone’.
The Australian Defence Force is war-gaming what its combat role would be in a potential military conflict with China over Taiwan, sources have revealed. Pictured: Australian Super Hornet aircrew get ready to take off
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen (pictured) has remained staunch in the face of Chinese aggression – with many nations now at loggerheads with the communist superpower
‘There is a lot of development and scenario planning going on,’ a diplomatic source told the Australian Financial Review.
‘It is intended to signal you are not going to blink. It is intended to demonstrate you don’t lack commitment.’
Taiwan, backed by the US and Japan, has endured a longstanding conflict with Beijing since the Chinese civil war in 1949 and now its residents are more on edge than ever after watching the erosion of freedom and independence in Hong Kong.
But the island nation remains an important ally of western democratic countries for its close proximity to China and because it produces a significant supply of semiconductor microchips at a time when there is a major global shortage.
In the event that China follows through on the rhetoric of its ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomats and attempts to annex the island, it’s possible the Quad could come to their aid.
A former defence official said Australian maritime assets like Air Warfare Destroyers and Collins-class submarines could be deployed in such an event to ‘bottle up’ the Chinese navy.
A Chinese naval ship sails into Sydney Harbour in June 2019 during a secret reciprocal visit – there are now warnings of an impending war between the nations
In the event that China follows through on the rhetoric of its ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomats and attempts to annex the island, it’s possible the Quad could come to their aid. Pictured: Australian troops line up in Townsville
But he admitted there would be great hesitation in doing so as it would put the vital military vessels and their crews at great risk.
He said it’s more likely Canberra would send ‘maritime surveillance aircraft, air-to-air refuellers, the Wedgetail airborne radar plane and Super Hornet fighter jets, operating from US bases in Guam or the Philippines’.
ADF chief Angus Campbell has said conflict over the island of Taiwan would be ‘disastrous’ for the people of the region and should be avoided at all cost.
But as China becomes increasingly belligerent on the world stage – carrying out a fatal border conflict with Indian last year and encroaching on Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and Brunei in the South China Sea – some believe conflict may be inevitable.
Former Defence Minister Christopher Pyne, who served under Malcolm Turnbull, said last week things may well get a whole lot worse as Beijing looks to poke and prod its Asia Pacific neighbours.
AUSTRALIA VS CHINA – MILITARY FORCE BY NUMBERS
Place on global Military Strength Ranking 2021:
China – 3rd globally
Australia – 19th globally
China – 3.3 million people
Australia – 80,000 people
China – 1,200
Australia – 75
China – 3,205
Australia – 59
China – 2,250
Australia – 0
China – 79
Australia – 6
Fit for service population:
China – 617 million people
Australia – 8.7 million people
China – $233billion
Australia – $42billion
China – 775 million people
Australia – 12.5 million people
China – 1.4 billion
Australia – 25 million
Australian Army soldier from the 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment in Queensland (pictured) amid warnings that Australia could ‘be at war with China’ within years
‘Five years ago, I would have said that the possibility was very unlikely – now I would have to say that the possibility is more likely than it was then,’ Mr Pyne said in a speech at the University of Adelaide, News.com.au reported.
‘Not a cyber war, but a real one involving loss of life, destruction of military platforms, with aggressors and defenders on different sides.
‘This isn’t rhetoric. This is something that you and I may well have to confront in the next five to 10 years.’
Australia’s relationship with its biggest trading partner began to drastically deteriorate in April last year when Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an independent inquiry into the origins of coronavirus, which first appeared in Wuhan at the end of 2019.
The plea for transparency over Covid-19 infuriated the Communist Party who retaliated by imposing arbitrary bans and tariffs on billions of dollars worth of Australian goods including barley, wine, cotton, seafood, beef, copper, and coal.
Pressure is mounting on Australia and fellow ‘Quad’ members – Japan, India and the US – to keep Beijing’s forces (pictured) at bay as tensions continue to soar over the disputed territory.
Former Defence Minister Christopher Pyne, who served under Malcolm Turnbull, said last week things may well get a whole lot worse as Beijing looks to poke and prod its Asia Pacific neighbours. Pictured: A US-made F-16 jet fighter lands on a runway in Taiwan
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.
July 9: Australia suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong and offers to extend the visas of 10,000 Hong Kongers who are already in Australia over China’s national security law which effectively bans protest.
August 18: China launches 12-month anti-dumping investigation into wines imported from Australia in a major threat to the $6billion industry.
August 26: Prime Minster Scott Morrison announces he will legislate to stop states and territories signing deals with foreign powers that go against Australia’s foreign policy. Analysts said it is aimed at China.
October 13: Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says he’s investigating reports that Chinese customs officials have informally told state-owned steelmakers and power plants to stop Aussie coal, leaving it in ships off-shore.
November 2: Agriculture Minister David Littleproud reveals China is holding up Aussie lobster imports by checking them for minerals.
November 3: Barley, sugar, red wine, logs, coal, lobster and copper imports from Australia unofficially banned under a directive from the government, according to reports.
November 18: China releases bizarre dossier of 14 grievances with Australia.
November 27: Australian coal exports to China have dropped 96 per cent in the first three weeks of November as 82 ships laden with 8.8million tonnes of coal are left floating off Chinese ports where they have been denied entry.
November 28: Beijing imposed a 212 per cent tariff on Australia’s $1.2 billion wine exports, claiming they were being ‘dumped’ or sold at below-cost. The claim is denied by both Australia and Chinese importers.
November 30: Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao posted a doctored image showing a grinning Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of an Afghan child. The move outraged Australians.
December 12: Australian coal is added to a Chinese blacklist.
January 11, 2021: Australia blocks $300million construction deal that would have seen state-owned China State Construction Engineering Corporation takeover Probuild. The bid was blacked over national security concerns.
February 5, 2021: China confirms Melbourne journalist and single mother Cheng Lei has been formally arrested after being detained in August, 2020.
February 23, 2021: China accuses Australia of being in an ‘axis of white supremacy’ with the UK, USA, Canada and NZ in an editorial.
March 11, 2021: Australia is accused of genocide by a Communist Party newspaper editor.
March 15, 2021: Trade Minister Dan Tehan announced he wants the World Trade Organisation to help mediate discussions between the two countries over the trade dispute.
April 21, 2021: Foreign Minister Marise Payne announces Australia has scrapped Victoria’s controversial Belt and Road deal with China using new veto powers