Richard Woolcott. Australia/China and Barracuda submarines.

May 2, 2016

It seems that one of the important roles for the new Barracuda submarines that we are to purchase from the French is for the submarines to be able to operate at long-range in the South China Sea. Quite apart from the cost of the submarine purchase, is this a wise strategy for Australia to pursue. I have reposted extracts below from an earlier article by Richard Woolcott in which he warns of an adversarial attitude towards China based mainly on Japanese policies and US support. John Menadue.

Extract from earlier article by Richard Woolcott ‘The Burning question – should Australia do more on the South China Sea‘ 9 March 2016.

Australia must develop a more balanced approach to its relationships with the United States and a rising China.

There is a danger that adversarial attitudes towards China, based mainly on Japanese policies and US support, could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The present debate on China seems mainly to assume that Australia has no choice but to support American primacy in Asia against what is perceived as a rising Chinese hegemony.  This is a simplistic approach which has been challenged by Hawke, Keating, the late Malcolm Fraser and most of our former Ambassadors to China, as well as a number of well informed academics, including Hugh White at the ANU. While China can be expected to resist American hegemony in the Asian region, it does accept a continuing and constructive US role in Asia.

Australia should not take sides on China/Japan or Vietnamese, Malaysian and Philippine disputes within ASEAN, on rival territorial claims in the South China Sea, as the United States has done. Australia’s focus should be on the unimpeded passage to the mainland of China through international waters in the South China Sea, as the United States insists on in respect of its access to its ports. There is no reason why China cannot rise peacefully if it is not provoked.

China maintains it is simply protecting its regional interests from the US “pivot to Asia “, or “rebalancing “as it is now called. Although President Obama has not defined this policy in any detail, two senior US Admirals have recently said, in public, that it is directed at restricting China’s influence in the South China Sea.12

Richard Woolcott was previously President of the United Nations Assembly, Head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Australian Ambassador to Indonesia and many other countries.

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