#Tillerson comments on #SouthChinaSea 'ludicrous'— Keating

  • Posted on: 17 January 2017
  • By: Staff Writers

Former prime minister Paul Keating has strongly criticised incoming US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, accusing the Republican cabinet nominee of threatening to "threatens to involve Australia in war with China".

In a statement released to reporters today, Mr Keating said the Australian government should reject Tillerson's position that China needed to be sent a "signal" to cease construction of military outposts on small islands in the disputed waters, characterising his comments as "ludicrous".

He said: "That means no naval commitment to joint operations in the South China Sea and no enhanced US military facilitation of such operations."

The former Labor prime minister said that Australia should reject such military "adventurism", noting that he believed the government should have done the same in regards to the 2003 Iraq War.

He said: "Tillerson's claim that China's control of access to the waters would be a threat to 'the entire global economy' is simply ludicrous. No country would be more badly affected than China if it moved to impede navigation. On the other hand, Australia's prosperity and the security of the world would be devastated by war."

During a TV interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in November, Mr Keating declared that Australia should "cut the tag" with the United States, and pursue a more independent foreign policy.

He said: "The foreign policy of Australia is basically: we have tag along rights to the US. It's time to cut the tag, it's time to get out of it. What we have to do is make our way in Asia ourselves, with an independent foreign policy."

Former diplomat and Canberra Times journalist Dr Alsion Broinowski said that Mr Tillerson's comments amounted to "dangerous brinkmanship".

She said: “[Trump] has nominated Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and General James Mattis as Defence Secretary. These men are making alarming statements which may threaten war with nuclear armed China and Russia. Just this past week the USA has moved tanks and military personnel into Europe to be stationed on the border with Russia which can only be considered a provocative act."