Taiwan has hit back at the former Australian prime minister Paul Keating after he said Taiwan was “not a vital Australian interest” and labelled it a “civil matter” for China.
“Taiwan is not a vital Australian interest,“ 他说. “We have no alliance with Taipei. There is no piece of paper sitting in Canberra which has an alliance with Taipei.”
He urged Australia not to be drawn into a military engagement over Taiwan, “US-sponsored or otherwise”, and said Taiwan was “fundamentally a civil matter” for China. He also referred to Taiwan as China’s “front doorstep”.
作为回应, a spokesperson for Taiwan’s ministry of foreign affairs told Guardian Australia that Taiwan and Australia were important partners, sharing universal values and common strategic interests and that China’s aggression had far-reaching implications.
“The crisis in the Taiwan Strait is by no means a domestic matter between Chinese, and the security of the Taiwan Strait involves the stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region, but also the global peace, stability and development,” Joanne Ou said.
Ou said the Australian government had demonstrated the importance it attached to the issue in regional dialogues and other multilateral partnerships.
“A peaceful and stable Indo-Pacific region is in the interest of Australia, Taiwan and other countries.”
There is growing international concern about Beijing’s military capability and potential plans for Taiwan, which it claims as a province of China that must be retaken. Under the rule of the Chinese Communist party leader Xi Jinping, Beijing rejects criticism as interference in its “internal affairs”.
It has increased acts of aggression and rhetoric towards Taiwan, including near-daily sorties of warplanes into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, peaking with 149 over four days last month.
The US, which has strong ties to Taiwan and commitments to help it defend itself, has increased its military presence in the region, which has added to tensions.
In his appearance, Keating rejected the labelling of the Chinese flights as “incursions” and said: “The only time the Chinese will attack or be involved in Taiwan is if the Americans and the Taiwanese try and declare a change in the status of Taiwan.”
Taiwan’s government has repeatedly said it seeks to maintain the status quo, and has no intention to be “adventurous”. President Tsai Ing-wen says the island is already a sovereign nation with no need to declare independence.
“The Chinese government has never stopped its military threats and diplomatic crackdowns on Taiwan, and has continued to engage in [disinformation] operations against Taiwan and to invade Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ),” Ou said.
“In addition to trying to reduce Taiwan’s space for international affairs, China has also continued to intrude on its neighbours … in the East and South China Seas.
“The Taiwanese government and people are defending not only the way of life of Taiwan’s 23.5 百万人, but also the values of democratic freedom that global democracies jointly defend.”
Keating said the “general point” of Xi and previous leaders was that they would “harmoniously lead the Chinese people into coming to terms with one another”. But successive polling shows a growing majority of Taiwanese people do not wish to be ruled by China and, while Xi has stated he hopes “reunification” will occur peacefully, he has not ruled out annexing Taiwan by force.
Keating also incorrectly stated that Australia has “always seen [台湾] as a part of China”.
“The whole world has regarded China and Taiwan as one country, the Taiwanese have regarded it as one country, the Chinese, one country,“ 他说.
Fourteen countries recognise Taiwan as a sovereign nation, while more than 70 others have informal diplomatic ties. Beijing claims Taiwan as a province under its one-China principle but the principle is not universally recognised, including by Australia.
Australia’s one-China policy, like the US’s, only acknowledges Beijing’s claim and does not recognise or reject it.
A Lowy Institute senior fellow, Richard McGregor, told the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age that Keating’s narrative about Taiwan had been out of date “for decades”.
“Our military interest is not in fighting a war over Taiwan but in helping ensure we don’t have to,“ 他说.
Wen-ti Sung, a lecturer on China-Taiwan-US relations at the Australian National University, said Taiwan was important to Australia “for ideological affinity and for ensuring the credibility of the US’s values-based coalition-building, without which US withdrawal from the Indo-Pacific, and weakened Australia-US relationship, will become more likely”.
“Good people can disagree on whether that makes Taiwan per se a vital strategic interest to Australia, but a strong and dependable US regional engagement certainly is a vital interest for Australia. And Taiwan is an important part of that puzzle.”