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Will Australia come under fire as China prepares for showdown with US in West Pacific?

ANI | Updated: Jul 02, 2022 20:08 IST

Canberra [Australia], July 2 (ANI): Australia seems to be in the firing line as US and China come closer to a showdown in the South China sea over Washington's firm support of Taiwan's democracy and independence.
In author Hugh White's latest Quarterly Essay, "Sleepwalk to War: Australia's Unthinking Alliance with America", he brought to light how Australia will be caught in the middle of possible confrontations between the US and China in the West Pacific region.
There were a number of concerns that the author expressed in the essay ranging from the options that Australia has to avoid getting into a full-blown conflict with China and the repercussion if the US fails to support Australia in the case.
China has increased the number of warplanes in Taiwan's air defence zone. US in a latest statement by President Joe Biden clarified that the US will engage militarily if China tries to invade Taiwan.
However, China is not solely eyeing Taiwan but is also expanding its ambitions in the Indo-Pacific by signing deals with other nations in the region. In two widely separated locations, Chinese fighters intercepted maritime patrol aircraft - Australian and Canadian respectively - in the Western Pacific, reported Beijing News.

Both were undertaking routine surveillance operations in international waters close to Chinese-claimed territory. China has long been touchy about US and allied maritime surveillance operations close to its shores, and it frequently warns them off.
Now if Australia confronts China over these issues, Beijing could simply undertake increasingly frequent and aggressive interceptions of Australian regular maritime patrol flights over the South China Sea.
Canberra's actions to put pressure on China will raise real concerns about the safety of Australia's aircraft and crews as during the operations Chinese might force one of the aircraft of Australia to land which may lead to a crash.
However, it will be even worse if Australia abandon any thoughts of operations and just let China compel them to stop operating in international airspace. It would weaken Australia's defence of the Law of the Sea against the Chinese claims over the South China Sea that will be seen as plainly illegal.
A Chinese campaign of interception and intimidation against Australia's maritime patrol operations would be a direct challenge to America as well. Austrlia would naturally expect Washington to step in and support by sending its own fighters to escort Canberra's maritime patrol planes.
This would not be an easy choice for Washington. Failing to support Australia would weaken its defence of international law, undermine its credibility as an ally, and vividly demonstrate to all the world how China's power in the Western Pacific has grown. It would be a major blow to America's claims to primary strategic power in our region.
Hugh White is the author of "The China Choice" and "How To Defend Australia", and the acclaimed Quarterly Essays "Power Shift" and "Without America". He is an emeritus professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University (ANU) and was the principal author of Australia's Defence White Paper 2000. (ANI)