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Peter Dutton says China’s activities ‘increasingly alarming’ during National Press Club address

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Defence Minister Peter Dutton has warned Australia is facing the most significant change in strategic environment since WWII, while noting every major city is within range of China’s missiles.

During his first address to the National Press Club in Canberra in his current role, Mr Dutton said there was a significant disconnect between China’s claims it wanted peace and its actions.

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He said China’s naval battle force had more than tripled in size over the past two decades alone to become the biggest navy in the world.

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“Today, we face the most significant change in our strategic environment since the Second World War,” he said.

“Once again, Australia finds herself in a region at the centre epicentre of global strategic competition.

“A region witness to a military build-up of a scale and ambition that historically has

rarely been associated with peaceful outcomes and a region where tensions continue to rise in a matter exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

QUESTION TIME
Camera IconPeter Dutton spoke about increasingly alarming activities in China. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

Mr Dutton said the Chinese government had said it was committed to peace, co-operation and development but its actions had become increasingly alarming.

“And yet we bear witness to a significant disconnect between the words and the actions, between the rhetoric and the well-known reality,” he said.

“Along with peoples of the Indo-Pacific and the world, Australians have watched, and we’ve watched very closely as the Chinese government has engaged in increasingly alarming activities.”

He said every major city in Australia was in range of China’s missiles which were projected to reach between 700 and 1000 warheads.

“Now, Australians expect their governments to speak frankly about the challenges our nation faces. To not ring-fence them from difficult issues or insult their intelligence,” he said.

Mr Dutton said he had spoken many times with Prime Minister Scott Morrison about how “we live in the echoes of the 1930s”.

“The world would be foolish to repeat the mistakes of the 1930s,” he said.

“We live in times of high tension but the region is not on an inevitable path to conflict.

“But only if all countries of goodwill ensure together we do our utmost to steer clear of the cliff face.

“Were conflict to come about through misunderstanding, through miscalculation or through hostility, it would be calamitous for us all.

“Australia’s position is very clear. Conflict must be avoided.”

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