Aukus leaders prefer posturing and provocation over dialogue

Jun 9, 2023
Relations between AUKUS and China Flags Aus,UK,USA China.

Shangri-La Dialogue was a missed opportunity for talks as defence chiefs Austin and Marles insisted on belligerence and doublespeak.

When it comes to China, the Joe Biden administration has become a one-trick pony – pretend to be ready for dialogue, then go in for the kill. How effective that has been depends on the eye of the beholder.

The latest case in point: the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. According to some news reports, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin personally requested a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Li Shangfu at the security conference but was rebuffed.

Just as the conference was taking place, the United States and Canada staged a highly provocative joint naval exercise sailing through the Taiwan Strait. So obvious, so predictable!

Austin said the US “is working together with our friends more closely every day”. He could say that again. The defence chief added: “We’re working closely with our allies to upgrade our force posture in the region. We’re making our presence more distributed, more agile, and more resilient. And that will bring greater stability and security to the region.” Or not.

An observer from Mars may reasonably conclude that such words and actions of the US and its client states otherwise known as allies are more likely to turn the region into a powder keg.

What you call defence may look pretty offensive to someone else; what you consider your security is another’s insecurity. The world, though, is getting used to such doublespeak.

When the US pushes its allies to reinforce its containment and encirclement against China, it’s called building up alliances. When China does something else as a countermeasure, it’s “bullying and coercion”. It’s exactly the same script when Washington punishes someone economically, it’s sanctions. When someone else does the same, it’s economic coercion.

Austin does not sound like a guy who wants a genuine dialogue to calm tensions and address potential flare-ups. Rather, it’s the same old Washington trick: either make the Chinese out to be the rejectionists; or force them to acquiesce to their own containment and encirclement.

Ever dependable, Australian defence chief Richard Marles joined the Austin chorus in Singapore. He claimed the Aukus security alliance was transparent but China’s military build-up was not. He didn’t elaborate, perhaps to avoid too many unwanted questions being asked. That’s unlikely, though, since much of the Australian press has been even more rabble-rousing and warmongering.

Why do the proposed handful of nuclear-powered submarines under Aukus need highly enriched uranium rather than lower-grade uranium that is sufficient for nuclear fuel if they don’t intend to carry nuclear weapons? That was a key sticking point in the Iran nuclear deal, which was all about the levels of enrichment the country was allowed to have without being able to make a nuclear bomb. Well, maybe we can’t trust Iran, but Australia, always!
Why does Australia need a handful of nuclear-powered subs for what Marles calls “force projections” outside its own region, but deep into the Asia-Pacific? It could have had a dozen non-nuclear submarines – deliverable at half the time and at about the same cost, as was originally planned – that would be perfectly suited to defending the homeland?

Some critics have pointed out that during a whole decade required to build the Australian nuclear subs, new naval ports and facilities will have to be built or modernised. Does that mean hosting US subs, which do carry nuclear weapons, and integrating Australian operations into the US command structure?

However you cut it, that doesn’t seem like Australia is contributing to “balance”, “deterrence”, “peace” and “collective security” in the Indo-Pacific, but quite the opposite – not to mention potentially dragging the country into a regional conflict while painting itself a nuclear target for the Chinese.

Suffice to say that what Marles means by “transparency” doesn’t seem to mean what most people understand by the word.

The Chinese certainly got an earful from Austin and his Australian friend in Singapore. Aukus leaders clearly prefer posturing and provocation over dialogue.


Republished from the South China Morning Post June 4, 2023

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