TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Australia and its allies will “lose the next decade” unless they stand together and push back against China in the South China Sea, Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton has warned.
Dutton lamented what he views as a lost decade after democracies failed to resist China’s expansion in the strategic waterway. By taking China’s assurances at face value, the U.S. and its allies gave Beijing time to construct islands and militarize bases on top of coral shoals, Dutton said.
“And the United States and others acquiesced and allowed the militarization now to the point where China has 20 points of presence in the South China Sea, which does not help stability in the region,” he said.
The minister’s comments come in the lead up to a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, according to a Sydney Morning Herald report. Dutton also expressed great confidence that Australia’s first nuclear-powered submarine will be completed before 2036.
The new submarine fleet is the flagship project of the newly formed trilateral security pact AUKUS between Australia, the U.K, and the U.S. Dutton based his prediction on recent discussions with American and British officials, who ensured him the vessels will come online much earlier than expected.
“I have no doubt we’ll have a nuclear-propelled submarine before that date,” Dutton said.
The minister has consistently spoken out against Chinese revanchism in the Indo-Pacific since assuming the defense portfolio. Dutton said last year it would be “inconceivable” for Australia not to join treaty ally the U.S., in defending Taiwan against a Chinese invasion.