Washington: On the sidelines of the Coronavirus pandemic and other expansionist activities of China, the Australian Foreign and Defence Ministers have arrived at Washington to hold discussions. In the last few months, the US has been trying to form a front of its allies against China. Sources said the US would include Australia as well during the upcoming AUSMIN talks. A few days ago, the Australian government announced its stance as it rejected all of China’s claims on the South China Sea. With that, Australia became only the second nation after the US to take such a stance.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds arrived in Washington on Monday and met US counterparts Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper. The ministers of both the nations will conduct a two plus two dialogue on Tuesday. The countries are likely to discuss on China during the talks. Apart from COVID-19 and the South China Sea, the nations will also be speaking about Hong Kong, cyber-attacks and disinformation campaign.
Under the leadership of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Australia has strategized to intensify its position against China in the past year and a half. Morrison has taken bold decisions to minimize Chinese influence over Australia. These include laws that were introduced to stop Chinese investments and political interference in the country. Australia has not only banned the Chinese tech giant Huawei from its 5G networks but also has announced an independent policy for stopping Chinese influence in the Pacific. Only last week, the Morrison administration announced the Defence Strategic Update and hinted at posing an open challenge to China in the South China Sea and the Indo-Pacific. Australia’s stand despite China being its largest trading partner assumes much significance.
Prime Minister Morrison’s anti-China stance has had severe repercussions in China. The Chinese Communist Party is consistently trying to pressurize Australia to change its policy. China has imposed extensive trade tariffs on Australian goods and even issued alerts to its citizens to avoid travelling to the country for tourism and education. Besides, China was also believed responsible for the cyber-attacks in Australia last year. The country has launched a scathing attack on Australia and said that the Morrison administration’s decision on 5G only proves that they are a mere puppet at the hands of the US. Furthermore, China has also threatened the country of severe consequences on its economy and other industries if it were to continue with its anti-China stance.
Nevertheless, Australia has indicated not withdrawing its stand in spite of China’s repeated pressure. The visit of Australian Foreign and Defence Ministers to the US and remarks made earlier on Chinese activities endorse the position. On the other hand, the US has made massive military deployments in the South China Sea to curb China’s aggression in the region. The US is trying to get support from its allies for additional deployments and has mainly focused on Japan and Australia.
Last week, Australia deployed its warships to the South China Sea, which goes to show the US is attaining success on that front. Sources have indicated that the US will try to use the AUSMIN talks to make the warship deployments a part of Australis’s long-term policy. Moreover, analysts claim that if the US is successful in doing so, it will deliver a massive blow to China’s ambitions for the Pacific.