The probability is increasing that Australia will be involved in a ‘high-intensity conflict in our own immediate strategic environment.’ This is according to Paul Dibb, former senior Australian intelligence official and currently emeritus professor at the Australian National University.
Dibb said in a media interview that ‘in four years flat, [the Australian government] went from being confident in 10 years or more warning time of a major threat … [to a] recognition that warning time was over and finished.’
In an oblique reference to China, he said that the threat emanated from a ‘certain country to our distant north.’
His comments come in the wake of a visit to Taiwan by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. China expressed severe displeasure at this, and conducted live fire drills around the island. These included firing missiles directly across it, which it had not done before.
China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Hua Chunying has also taken aim at US allies in the region, including Australia, commenting: ‘Now the US and its sidekicks have spoken up accusing China of “overreacting”. But if they truly care about regional peace and stability, why hadn’t they stood up and tried to dissuade Pelosi early on? Couldn’t they have seen this coming and prevented it? I hope that the US and its handful of “buddies” will realise that if they do respect the principle of democracy, then they should hear and respect the voice of the more than 1.4 billion Chinese people.’
Although a key US ally, Australia has not sensed itself threatened in decades; tensions around China’s increasing assertiveness have pushed it to begin an expansion of its military capabilities.