Sky News – Submarines, IPAC



Subjects: Taiwan, Submarines and capability gap, IPAC

TOM CONNELL, HOST: Peter Khalil, thanks for your time. We’ve got Beijing announcing these continuing drills to prepare for the encircling of Taiwan and no end date. Is this China preparing for war. 

PETER KHALIL, MEMBER FOR WILLS: Well, it’s very, very concerning. It’s deeply concerning, Tom and we’ve said very clearly, that these exercises, these live military exercises and encirclement around the Taiwan Strait are disproportionate and very destabilising to the region. And of course, it heightens the risk of miscalculation and that’s not anything anyone wants across the region. And that’s why our Foreign Minister, our acting Prime Minister, have been urging restraint and de-escalation as a response. So, it’s not just Australia that’s concerned clearly, it’s many countries across the region and we’re all sort of in a unified voice to try and lower the temperature here. And we don’t want to see any unilateral change to the status quo across the Taiwan Strait. We want to lower temperatures, de-escalate, stabilise the situation and get back to a sort of a normal pattern of behaviours. So that’s why this is so deeply concerning. 

CONNELL: That’s the hope, the reality might be different. Are we at the point now where the Australian Government is looking at what would happen, how we would react if China does invade Taiwan?

KHALIL: Well, I mean the Australian Government and our agencies and our security agencies and the Australian Defence Forces, prepare themselves and make sure that we have the right capability. That’s why we’re conducting the Defence Strategic Review to ensure that we have the most capable defence forces for our strategic circumstances. And it is the case that the strategic circumstances that Australian face are probably the most volatile, most dangerous in decades, frankly. And this is something that Angus Houston has articulated. Our acting Prime Minister has noted, we are in a very volatile geostrategic period and we have a responsibility to ensure that our defence forces, our security agencies, are all given the capability that they need to be able to defend Australia and our interests. 

CONNELL: And I want to get that into that. You know, which delves into medium and longer term planning as well. But just in this particular crisis, are we at the point where the Australian Government and obviously our departments and so on have to develop options for Australia if this invasion does happen, so we’re ready to move if it happens and there’s no delay. 

KHALIL: Well, I know you want to sort of talk about a hypothetical scenario, Tom about war and all that. What is in our national interest, frankly, is to do everything possible to deescalate the situation. No one wants conflict in the region. And it is not in our interests to see that happen clearly and I don’t think it’s in China’s interest practically, either, because we’re talking about a massive impact on the global economy, if there was such conflict and frankly a massive impact on China’s economy. And the gains that they’ve made in economic growth over decades would be put in peril and jeopardised. Look, there’s a lot of things happening domestically in China. There is the party congress coming up in October and some analysts have talked about how that is partly the reason why President Xi is, you know, reaching for these sorts of military exercises to, you know, burnish his nationalist credentials, ahead of the party congress and potentially to be extended for a third term, so there’s some domestic politics involved as well. But there is a real question here around the impact that it will have on all of us and I think it’s important for us to continue to push, to deescalate, to urge restraint, and for China to also recognise that it’s in its best interests for there to be a status quo around the Taiwan Straits. What we’ve said with our One China policy is, we want to see peaceful dialogue, any evolution in that in that situation has to be done through peaceful means and through dialogue. 

CONNELL: But again that’s, you know, the hope that that will be resolved that way. But so far clearly, it’s falling on deaf ears. Given this latest development and let me just ask this question, are we at a point where in some way China needs to get sent a message that without revealing what anyone country, including Australia, would do, that this would not be a cost-free exercise for China. 

KHALIL: Look, I just make a point about your question: it’s not just a hope, it is a pathway forward that we are all undertaking because it is in our national interest to prevent conflict in the region. It is in our national interest for there to be stability in the region, for our economic interests and our national security interests. So, it’s more than just a hope, it is a path that we’re trying to navigate. Now, the live military exercises that have been undertaken in response to a congressional visit to Taiwan, we have said are disproportionate and they are disproportionate. Well, let’s be serious here, there was a Senate visit to Taiwan a couple months ago and not a word was said. So clearly there’s something going on here. With respect to the other part of your question. It is Australia’s responsibility to always prepare, you know, defence forces, our security agencies, are always prepared for every possible scenario, frankly and make sure we have the right capability and that’s what our defence Minister Richard Marles is doing with some urgency since we’ve taken government. 

CONNELL: The criticism has also come from China’s Foreign Ministry being directed at Penny Wong. Has the prospect of a reset of the relationship gone now? 

KHALIL: Oh look, there’s a lot of things going on and I think that our Foreign Minister has been entirely reasonable in pointing out the benefit to deescalate tensions and why that is in the interests of all the countries in the region including China, to deescalate and to lower temperatures and she’s been entirely reasonable in what she’s said, so there’s a lot of heavy rhetoric, if I could put it that way at the diplomatic level. I’d never discount the possibility for a continuance of trying to stabilise the relationship.

CONNELL: Right, but it’s not looking great, is it? 

KHALIL: No, no, but there’s been, you know, obviously bumps in the road over a period of time and there’s been some progress, more recently, with the first engagement between our Foreign Minister and their Foreign Minister after three years of non-engagement, our Defence Minister Richard Marles met the Chinese Defence minister. Dialogue is good, Tom. Any dialogue is good. It’s much better because it’s about being able to engage. So, we’ll continue to pursue stabilising the relationship. 

CONNELL: Peter Khalil, got to leave it there. Thanks for your time today.

KHALIL: Thanks Tom.