China's ambitions frame Australia as one of its "tributary states", the Defence Minister warned in justifying the need for military build-up in the Indo-Pacific as a strong "counter pressure" against the regional power.
Peter Dutton used his first his first address to the National Press Club as Defence Minister on Friday to articulate the threat posed by China as the government prepares to announce more cooperation with military partners despite concerns in the region of an arms race.
The Chinese embassy in Canberra hit back accusing Peter Dutton of "preaching his quixotic misunderstanding" of China's foreign policy, while former Australian prime minister Paul Keating responded to the minister's comments calling him "a dangerous personality" for inserting Australia into the "potentially explosive situation" over Taiwan.
Taiwan reunification may not satisfy the Chinese government and the Senkaku Islands could be next, he argued. Without the United States' backing, Australia was set for a "perilous military and economic situation" at Beijing's mercy.
"That surrender of sovereignty and abandonment of any adherence to the international rule of law is what our country has fought against since Federation."
Military strength was the path to returning relations with China to normal, he claimed, not acquiescence or appeasement, which was "a tactic that ends in a cul-de-sac of strategic misfortune or worse".
Australians should expect to see every type of US military aircraft cycle through Australia at some point, he said, confirming earlier indications from the US Pacific Air Forces chief that the Biden administration's Pentagon wanted all its capability in Australia under the new AUKUS pact and cooperation talks.
"F-22s, F-35s, F-16s, F-15s, B-52, B-1s - what we have available to us, we will [send], as long as Australia is OK with that," General Kenneth Wilsbach was reported as saying.
This month marked the 10th anniversary of the US Force Posture Initiatives in Australia that has seen Marines in Darwin increase from 200 to more than 2500, and increased ties between each country's air forces.
Mr Dutton stood by earlier comments that it was "inconceivable" that Australia would not send troops to support the US over Taiwan.
Asked if parents of ADF personnel should expect their child was go to war, Mr Dutton said Australians stand up the values that earlier generations stood up for with a might that is respected around the world.
"That makes us a valuable partner with those great friends.
"If we're a weak and unreliable and trustworthy friend, then we won't expect the support of those countries and in particularly the United States into the future. I think that would be disastrous ... and we should be very honest about that."
Labor defence spokesman Brendan O'Connor said the minister's domino theory of Chinese ambitions over the Senkaku Islands was a "frolic" not shared by national security experts.
"I think he has every right to say that we have to be prepared for the worst and obviously look to ensure the best possible outcome in our region," Mr O'Connor told Sky News.
"But I do not think using for political purposes war rhetoric has been useful, has been helpful, has in any way been wise.
"The Prime Minister should rein him in."
In a statement, the Chinese embassy said Mr Dutton was fanning conflict between the two nations.
"It is inconceivable that China-Australia relationship will take on a good momentum or the overall interest of regional countries, including that of Australia, will be better promoted if the Australian government bases its national strategy on such visionless analysis and outdated mentality."
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