CAVAN HOGUE. Comment on Hugh White’s response to Paul Dibb on ANZUS and Taiwan.

Hugh White has made an effective rebuttal of Paul Dibb’s claim that we should join the US if China takes military action against Taiwan.

It is important to stress that ANZUS does not require us to join with the USA in defending Taiwan.  

The relevant sections of the Treaty follows The bits in bold are mine.

Article III: The Parties will consult together whenever in the opinion of any of them the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened in the Pacific.

Article IV: Each Party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific Area on any of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes. Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall be immediately reported to the Security Council of the United Nations. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.

Article V: For the purpose of Article IV, an armed attack on any of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack on the metropolitan territory of any of the Parties, or on the island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific or on its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific.

The only way the US could argue that we were obliged to join would be to claim that Article V means China had made an armed attack “on its armed forces … in the Pacific” The argument presumably would be that China had attacked US armed forces based in Taiwan. This seems to me a dubious proposition when it was the US that had commenced hostilities against |China. And in any case we would only be obliged to consult in accordance with our constitutional processes – a provision inserted at US insistence so that it would not automatically be obliged to come to Australia’s aid. Taiwan is not part of the USA despite the view of the missionary and other lobbies that it was lost.

A further consideration is that Australia and the US accept the one China policy so Beijing might argue that they are simply finishing the civil war which was not completed because of US interference in China’s internal affairs. How could we legally justify military action against a recalcitrant province which we recognise as part of China? Note also that Article IV states that any armed attack must be immediately reported to the Security Council which, given the Chinese and Russian vetoes, would not endorse the American action. All measures must cease when the UN has taken the necessary measures to maintain international peace and security. What would those measures be?

In addition to the arguments so well put by Hugh White, the main problem for us would be that our forces are so integrated with the US military that it would be a major operation to get them out and the US might not even bother to ask us. There is a precedent for taking them out as we did with Australians serving in British units during the Falklands War but they were not so deeply integrated. .A further concern is the presence of US intelligence bases in Australia like Pine Gap which would presumably be involved in any action against China. Some would argue that Taiwan has become a democracy and that therefore we must support a political system which is important to us but would this include military action which would be token? The major problem would be our client mentality which sees our relationship with the USA as paramount and more important than any others including our Southeast Asian neighbours. Would the Australian public support military action which could involve Chinese attacks on Australian soil? Our other forays with the US have not posed any threat to the homeland. Would we join another Coalition of the Willing? As lovers of Laurel and Hardy might say, another fine mess you’ve got us into America.

Cavan Hogue is a retired Australian diplomat with extensive experience in Asia.


Cavan Hogue is a former diplomat who has worked in Asia, Europe and the Americas as well as at the UN. He also worked at ANU and Macquarie universities.

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6 Responses to CAVAN HOGUE. Comment on Hugh White’s response to Paul Dibb on ANZUS and Taiwan.

  1. peter small says:

    Scott Morrison in a shrill moment, is going to open Christmas Island because of the expected avalanche of “boat people”. Obviously he thinks the Australian Navy is
    incapable of halting a few leaky refugee boats. So China must be terrified with the thought of our navy approaching their shores!
    The people who really need to be terrified is everyone within the Australian economy as China disappears from our list of export markets and our economy sinks… faster than a leaky boat!

  2. Michael Hart says:

    Cavan I can agree with your arguments in the most part. However what disturbs me more than anything else is that we have this presumption to publicly discuss the issue of China and Taiwan in this manner of what the Americans might or might do and what the Chinese might or might not do. (via White and Dibb not to mention numerous spin documents about Chinese threats etc eminating from the corrupted and blinkered Australian Intelligence community).

    All the assessments are flawed with a basic lack of understanding of identity, firstly that we need to form our own but more importantly the national character and secondly a complete misreading of the true national identity of Russian and China both.

    We have hoisted our future on an alliance that is of dubious value and is already missing a more sensible and pragmatic partner New Zealand. The had enough sense of being a New Zealander but it took the pragmatic and farsighted David Lange to do so. The Whitlam Government was going to but ran out of time. While we may dispute the nuance or meaning of some sections of this treaty we disdain and ignore our obligations and responsibilities internationally via the United Nations so is all ANZUS all we have left? Probably, this is the outcome of shirt tailing on American foreign policy and views and pretending they are our own while ignoring the significantly dangerous changes that have occured in the American body politic over the past three or four decades. We failed to understand that the Americans have created an Empire whose primary power tool is control of international currency and banking and supported by violence and military force. We live in the past concerning American government processes, it is an oligarchy of the rich underpinned by the administration of corporations. Neither serve or respond to the interests of the American people. It is up to the Americans to rescue themselves as well.

    So as we all jumped around Russia and China, rebuilt , reinvigorated and steadfastly Russian and Chinese with their own way of doing things. So they are attacked economically and financially and when that does not work perhaps the folly of military action so lets us all remember they are also substantial nuclear powers and have repeatedly warned the United States to avoid any foolishness and gross intimidation.

    So that is our national interest to get ourselves out of this alliance, recognise our own interests which curiously enough are having peaceful and prosperous relations with out neighbours, Asia and the Pacific on one side and India and Africa an ocean away on the other.

    Discussions about the validity of any part of any treaty was it not for the fact they are not fatally incorporated into the American War Machine with fowardly fools for political representatives incapable of being honourable and sensible enough to focus upon and understand our predicament and our interests. I am more than certain that the greater Australian public had had enough of our Imperialistic epoch and would dearly love to be just ‘Australians’.

    I will refrain from being more rude than we have been to continue to publicly give the impression that we are willing to make ourselves lethal enemies of either country, that is definitely not in our interest.

    • Diana Barry says:

      I agree entirely. Whether we like it or not the great power in our future is China and the sooner we admit this and act accordingly the better off we will be 😲

  3. Rex Williams, Australians for Justice says:

    The new China, with added confidence as to their importance in the world today, would see another example of lapdog behaviour by Australia as par for the course and regardless of ANZUS or any other arrangement, would justifiably be viewing Australia as an potential enemy.
    And rightly so.
    They would also see our record of slavish behaviour to US dictates as a total weakness, reflecting a foreign policy that has not one iota of independence, and probably will never have until the end of US empire. How far is that away? Anyone’s guess, but it is certainly on the way.
    But one can hardly mistake all the signs, one of the most notable is voter turnout in America. A primary in Arizona recently saw a turnout of 26%. Apathy, as with Australia if compulsory voting was not the order of the day, is alive and well. Americans know that their votes don’t make any difference. Republican neocon or Democrat neocon, both are subservient to Israel, the deadly follies of Trump and the real US government, AIPAC.
    There would be no thinking person over the age of 15 years old that would not see Australia as totally dominated by the US. Check that out, Professor Dibb. Ask your ANU students.
    It is now reported that we are to have a visit by John Bolton, one of the most active and hated neocons who influenced and supported the disgraceful lies and the promotion of the war in Iraq with his bunch of like-minded associates like Feith, Abrams, Wolfowitz, Perle, Jackson, Cheney, Kagan, Nuland, Hannah, Kristol, just to name a few, all strategically placed in government locations for a dual role. Being pro-Israel, constituting having dual loyalties – (that is, a desire to further Israel’s interests that equals or exceeds the desire to further U.S. interests)- the record of their contribution to the Iraq war and millions of deaths speaking clearly for itself, for all to see.
    Everyone but the neocons themselves are seen as “collateral damage”, and that certainly includes Australians as well. The USA interest in this country is for bases, already over 20, many with questionable objectives, assistance in the power over and control of Asia and to let the world know that they have their “best friend” on side. Adds somewhat to their credibility, or so they think.
    Based on his recent statements, Bolton is an international warmonger just based on past activities and statements against peace, even today….but decidedly all out for a US-led war and world domination, US-style. Any country will do. Can’t get enough of it, Venezuela being the latest planned dalliance. He deserves to be examined by the Judges at The Hague. But coming to this country, (for a reason, no doubt) Australians, will witness all the pomp and circumstance that we can muster (and do regularly) for anyone from the USA, regardless of their record.
    Just wait and see if I am right. Another ‘yes sir,’ example on the way.
    Perhaps we may even see the good Professor Dibb laying down palm leaves for Bolton’s walk to The Lodge.
    What a field day a 2019 version of Joseph McCarthy would have in the USA and similarly in Australia in 2019. Clearly the AIPAC in the US and in Australia, the AIJAC lobby groups (the “I” in both referring to Israel) would have been seen in the 1950’s as indulging in un-American and un-Australian activities run by dual-passported Israelis. Communism then was the spectre. Does anyone even remember ‘communism’?
    Compared to the insidious US and Israeli foreign influence in this day and age, it pales into insignificance.

    Just ask China. They know. Everyone knows except Paul Dibb.

  4. Alison Broinowski Alison Broinowski says:

    Australians being embedded in US forces, and the presence of Pine Gap, are as Mack Williams says, potential limitations on our freedom to stay out of a US war in our region. But the US Marine Base in Darwin ties our other hand behind our back. It was intended by its proponents, especially Kim Beazley, for exactly that purpose: to ensure that, if the Americans wouldn’t defend Australia, they would defend their base. Together, these three leave an Australian government no option but to say yes. Our neglect of foreign and defence policy independence since Federation now culminate in making Australia a surrogate target for an attacker which doesn’t want to take on the US itself.

  5. Tony Kevin says:

    I agree totally with Hugh White and Cavan Hogue. One important detail – Pine Gap is not just an intelligence- gathering base, it is a targeting base for US missiles aimed at China ( or Russia) . So it would be a first-priority target in any missile exchange between China and the US. Indeed a fine mess, as Hugh and Cavan confirm.

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