Australia’s ambassador to the United States, Arthur Sinodinos, says China’s coercion in the Indo-Pacific is now a bigger threat than September 11-style terrorism and that the strategic ANZUS alliance will be stronger in coming months as both countries hasten military and economic tie-ups to counter intimidation from Beijing.
Mr Sinodinos said he expects he will meet the incoming Chinese ambassador to the US, Qin Gang, soon and that he is confident America’s exit from Afghanistan means more than just a symbolic pivot to the Pacific.
Australian ambassador Arthur Sinodinos: “Our quarrel is not with Chinese people. Our quarrel is foreign interference in the way we run our domestic economy.” Sarah Baker
“The geostrategic challenge in the Indo-Pacific, with the rise of China, is pre-eminent in US minds. It’s pre-eminent in all of our minds – it’s our neighbourhood,” he said.
“But to the extent that there’s a terror threat, we’re in a much stronger, more sophisticated position to deal with that threat than we were 20 years ago. We’ve learnt a lot, we’ve deployed assets in new ways to deal with that.”
There was now a much greater need to counter threats of “digital authoritarianism in the region” and other coercive actions, Mr Sinodinos said.
Australia and the US both wanted to be part of “surgically identifying and pushing back on what are clearly coercive actions which are being taken by a state to enforce a particular outcome on another state”.
“Our quarrel is not with Chinese people. Our quarrel is foreign interference in the way we run our domestic economy. There’s a point at which you just have to stand up for your values.”
Following remarks by US President Joe Biden on the significance of the 70th anniversary of the ANZUS treaty on September 1, Mr Sinodinos said the treaty milestone and America’s pivot to the Indo-Pacific region after Afghanistan would deliver new momentum in the way both nations positioned themselves in the light of China’s coercion.
“The US is very determined that the major geostrategic challenge is the Indo-Pacific and they want to play their role in that region,” he said. “The trips to the region by senior officials Antony Blinken, Lloyd Austin and more recently, the Vice-President [Kamala Harris], all put clothes on the rhetoric about further pivoting to the Indo-Pacific.
“The feedback we get from officials within the administration is that leaving Afghanistan is part of their strategy of further concentrating their efforts in the Indo-Pacific, and you can expect that there’ll be more US engagement, on both defence and security, trade and economy in the region.
“It will be ANZUS-plus.”
One of many areas where ANZUS ties will be extended is in military capability. The US provides 60 per cent of Australia’s military capability, but Australia is planning to lift its production of missiles for itself and the US.
“We are co-operating with the US on new weapons technologies such as hypersonics. We’re also talking with them about precision-guided munitions; we want to stand up the sovereign capability.”
“We visited defence facilities and defence companies to talk about what a guided weapon and explosive ordnance enterprise will look like and how that would be done. That’ll feed into consideration by the government in the run-up to the end of the year about how we stand up such an enterprise.”
He noted the US had also increased its Marine rotational force in the Pacific and in northern Australia.
“We’ve got an ANZUS alliance, which is now 70 years old. It’s continuing to develop, it’s continuing to become more and more complex as we become more and more interrelated.”
Mr Sinodinos said he wanted to make sure Australia took part in shaping policy on the involvement in wars and their exit strategies in the future and that an investigation into the Afghan war was essential.
“Here in the US, there will be quite a bit of post-mortem and investigation. The Congress has already made it clear that will be the case. This is part of the normal political argy-bargy. But I think there’s genuinely a view here. What happened? How did it happen? And what lessons do we learn?
“As a country that was there for 20 years alongside the Americans, I think Australia will be doing its part to help shape those policies, views, visions and outlines.
“I think we’ll be active in that process because you know we expended quite a bit of blood and treasure. And we more than earned our seat at the table.”
Source: Financial Review