Australian PM Warns of Devastating Consequences of Deteriorating US-China Relations

Singapore's Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen meets with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on the sidelines of the 20th Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore June 2, 2023. Singapore Ministry of Defence/Handout via REUTERS

SINGAPORE (Reuters) By Dr Majid Khan-Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Friday that a breakdown in dialogue between the superpowers could have devastating consequences for the world and called for greater engagement between the United States and China.

Relations between the United States and China, still deeply divided, from Taiwan’s sovereignty to cyber espionage to territorial disputes in the South China Sea, are at their worst in decades.

Speaking at the opening of the Shangri-La Dialogue Security Summit in Singapore, Albanese said he supported US President Joe Biden’s efforts to open communication channels with China.

“Without the pressure valve of dialogue, there is always a greater risk of assumptions leading to irreversible actions and reactions,” Albanese said at a ballroom full of defense officials and diplomats from around the world. rice field. “The impact of such a collapse, whether in the Taiwan Strait or elsewhere, would be devastating for the world, not limited to great powers or sites of conflict,” he added.

It is expected to gain the upper hand at the summit due to increased competition between the US and China. Chinese Defense Minister Li Sang Fu declined an invitation to meet with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin this week.

The two shook hands at the side of the meeting on Friday, but there was no “substantial exchange” between them, the Pentagon said.

Austin is scheduled to speak at the summit on Saturday, followed by Lee himself on Sunday.

Albanese’s comments come as Australia seeks to stabilize relations with China after a three-year diplomatic freeze and trade blockade that Beijing is now easing.

China buys most of Australia’s precious iron ore and is Australia’s largest trading partner.

The United States is Australia’s biggest security ally, and Beijing has criticized the U.S. nuclear submarine purchase deal announced in March.

Australia will spend A$368 billion (US$250 billion) on its submarine program over 30 years, as part of a broader security deal with the United States and Britain called AUKUS. Australia is also part of the Five Eyes intelligence gathering and sharing network, along with the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand. The group, according to Chinese officials, is part of the West’s ongoing “Cold War mentality,” an attempt to curb Cold War consciousness. 

“In strengthening our defense capabilities, Australia’s goal is not to prepare for war, but to prevent war and build regional resilience through deterrence and reassurance,” Mr Albanese said.