Australia sees possible conflict with China over Taiwan

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He admitted that waging wars might well be wrong, but "the greater folly is to wish away the curse by refusing to give it thought and attention, as if in so doing, war might leave us be, forgetting us perhaps", as the minister put it, saying "the drums of war" sometimes beat faintly, and at times much louder.

The chance of a conflict involving China over Taiwan "should not be discounted", but Australia will work with its allies in the region to try and maintain peace, Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton said on Sunday.

The announcement, an expansion of previously pledged funding, comes in the wake of growing tensions with China and a number of senior government figures suggesting military conflict in the region was an increasingly likely possibility.

Northern Australia is a key region for Australian Defence Force bases, given its proximity to the Asia Pacific.

"We need to deal with all of that, and that is exactly what we are now focused on", he said, shortly after the decision of Foreign Minister Marise Payne to scrap a major infrastructure deal between the Victorian state government and China.

Australian officials and lawmakers were split on Pezzullo and Dutton's comments amid rising tensions with Beijing.

How have Australian politicians reacted to the remarks?

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In his speech, Mr Pezzullo, warned that Australia must be prepared "to send off, yet again, our warriors to fight".

Australia-China ties have been steadily worsening since PM Scott Morrison urged Beijing past year to allow an independent probe into the origins of the novel coronavirus, which was first registered in Wuhan, Hubei, in December 2019. "Obviously, there is a significant amount of activity and there is an animosity between Taiwan and China".

Last month, America's chargé d'affaires in Canberra, Michael Goldman, hinted that Washington expects Australia to participate in Taiwan's defence.

"I'd just like to say that we're focused on that, of course. You can think of all sorts of things ranging from a blockade to cyber incursions to, you know, lobbing missiles over the island".

Earlier this week, Mr Dutton said the Chinese government was militarising ports in the region. China has said that its vessels' presence in the South China Sea is normal and legitimate.

"Barely discussed is that an unimaginable range of Australian military and civilian facilities and infrastructure can be knocked out by [China's] cruise missiles", aerospace analyst Bradley Perrett wrote for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in February. "Which facilities are expected not to be smoking ruins?"

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