Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his country would maintain its policy towards Taiwan following appeals by the island’s foreign minister for support against Beijing’s “expansion of authoritarianism”.
Asked about Australian support for Taiwan on Thursday, Morrison said his government had “always honoured all of our arrangements in the Indo-Pacific” – but appeared to mistakenly conflate Canberra’s position on the one-China policy regarding Taiwan with the “one country, two systems” model of semi-autonomy in Hong Kong.
The Australian government maintains strategic ambiguity on Taiwan, acknowledging Beijing’s claims to the self-governed island while supporting a greater Taiwanese presence in the international arena, including in the World Health Organization.
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“We have always understood the one system, two countries arrangement, and we will continue to follow our policies there … one country, two systems, I should say,” Morrison told the local radio station 3AW.
“I’m not one to speak at length on these things, because I don’t wish to add to any uncertainty. But that’s why we have the security arrangements we have in place.”
He added: “We always have stood for freedom in our part of the world.”
Morrison’s remarks came after Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told The Australian Financial Review that Beijing seemed to be “preparing for a final assault against Taiwan”, and called for Australia to step up its relations with the island and continue its support amid threats from Beijing.
Relations between Beijing and Canberra have been increasingly strained, with Beijing enacting a series of punitive trade restrictions on Australian goods after Canberra’s calls last year for an independent investigation into the origins of Covid-19.
Beijing has in recent months ramped up “grey zone” warfare tactics against Taiwan, which it has vowed to bring under its rule by force if necessary. A People’s Liberation Army Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft entered Taiwan’s southwest air defence identification zone (ADIZ) on Thursday afternoon, according to Taiwan’s defence ministry.
This was the third time Chinese aircraft entered Taiwan’s ADIZ in May, and there have been nearly 90 instances since January.
There have been growing concerns that Taiwan may become a flashpoint for military conflict between China and the United States, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warning last month that it would be a “serious mistake” if Beijing sought to “try to change the existing status quo by force”.
Last week, Peter Dutton, Australia’s new defence minister, said that he did not think a conflict over Taiwan “should be discounted”, and that Australia would continue to “work with our partners and with our allies” to prevent such a conflict.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said after Dutton’s remarks that Australia should recognise that the Taiwan issue was “highly sensitive” and “be prudent in its words and deeds to avoid sending any wrong signals to the Taiwanese independence separatist forces”.
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