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Taiwan: Implications for Australia?

Written by: (Contributed) on 16 October 2021


A flurry of US-led Cold War diplomatic positions and escalating tensions over Taiwan has revealed just how high the stakes have become for the US with their regional hostilities against China.

The timing of the developments has not been coincidental; other factors have been brought into play, a change of political leadership in Japan has been a decisive factor.

Behind the scenes, however, recent defence and security initiatives have increased the likelihood of Australia being drawn into regional 'real-war' scenarios to defend 'US interests'.

In late September Fumio Kishida replaced Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga; the new leader is a well-known China hawk who supports 'aggressive government spending worth hundreds of billions of dollars to lift Japan's economy out of the doldrums'. (1) The Japanese economy has been sluggish for decades, with many warning signs of longer-term political problems. It is, therefore, interesting to note Kishida is part of a faction of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LTD) known as the 'home of the patricians', composed of members of important families and those who have served in high-ranking bureaucratic government positions. (2)

Kishida would appear their man with a mission: in his campaign to become the new Japanese prime minister Kishida was quoted calling for a hard-line stance on China and for Tokyo and Washington to 'run joint simulations of how they would respond together in a crisis scenario involving Taiwan’. (3) Fears, historically, have existed that while the US is formally committed to defending Taiwan, it is hampered by geographical considerations. Allies, such as Japan, are therefore, regarded as essential for effective defence of Taiwan strategies.

Almost immediately after Kishida took office as prime minister, US-led regional diplomatic tensions escalated over Taiwan accompanied by intelligence assessments of a likely military invasion by China. (4) There was little ambiguity about the timing of the developments, Kishida was actually quoted in an editorial in the Australian newspaper immediately after taking office that 'Japan continually needed to update its preparations for a conflict involving Taiwan'. (5) The term possible was not included.

And then the Australia government sent former prime minister Tony Abbott to Taipei for high-level diplomatic talks with Taiwanese counterparts. It was not intended as a holiday after other extra-curricular duties conducted on behalf of the Morrison coalition government in Canberra. After pledging Australian support for Taiwan, Abbott was allowed to address the nation on Taiwan's National Day celebrations; it was duly noted elsewhere that the country was 'looking beyond Washington in its strategic and security policies'. (6)    

Taiwan, historically, was a peripheral entity for Australian foreign policy. For many decades Australia has fostered stronger diplomatic links with China for trade. Canberra has always accepted the United Nations position of the One China policy which, effectively, diplomatically isolated Taiwan long ago.   

It is important, therefore, to look behind the scenes to establish the changing nature of US-led diplomacy toward China, which has serious implications for allies such as Australia.

Taiwan is strategically placed as part of US military planning with Island Chain Theory (ICT), designed to contain and encircle China from ready access and egress to the wider region through lines of small land masses and underwater areas difficult for submarines and shipping vessels to navigate easily. Links between Japan and Taiwan also have a long and shared history with US foreign policy and ICT. While Taiwan forms part of the first chain, Japan is located as part of both the first and second chains. (7) Beyond the second chain lies the western Pacific and Oceania of which Australia is the key hub for 'US interests'.

It is, therefore, not coincidental to find that Abbott, in his official diplomatic address, drew attention to the sensitive western Pacific, where major US-led tensions have arisen. (8)

The western Pacific and Oceania is a vast area, including Polynesia and Micronesia, where many small countries have huge diplomatic significance through their membership of regional trade bodies and as voters at the UN. US military and security considerations also include their regional military headquarters for the Indo-Pacific which are based in Hawaii; it has added to the increasingly paranoid position of the Pentagon.

In recent times, China has been able to make large-scale diplomatic inroads with many of the Pacific island countries with mutually beneficial trade relations. It has not gone unnoticed in Washington and the Pentagon, where military planners do not take kindly to competitors to their traditional hegemonic positions. The escalating US-led diplomatic tensions sweeping the region are little other than an attempt to reassert 'US interests'.

Central to the US-led position are the role of sensitive intelligence facilities based at Pine Gap, Australia. The continually scan the region and monitor adversaries and those assessed as not being compliant with 'US interests'. (9) When Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu 'urged Australia to increase intelligence sharing and security cooperation', it was a request from Taipei for greater access to the US-led facilities together with other assistance from elsewhere. (10)

While the Pine Gap facilities have been updated many times, it is a recent announcement from within the military-industrial complex which has revealed added dimensions to the existing US-led intelligence program.

Coinciding with developments focussed upon Taiwan, an announcement that an Australian-based $240 million space radar project designed to track 'hundreds of thousands of orbiting objects' including satellites with the ability to 'keep an eye on other nations' and 'monitor government activity' together with large-scale telecommunications interception facilities, has to be taken very seriously. (11)

The development has also been accompanied by the CIA establishing a China Mission Centre, part of a major concentration of US intelligence service focus upon China. (12) The Centre has a planned broad focus upon their adversary. An official media release noted, for example, that 'China poses a unique challenge to the US given its economic might, in technology, trade, diplomacy, defence and other spheres'. (13)  

A recent media release about an Australian-based quasi-intelligence organisation, LeoLabs, can therefore be placed directly into its appropriate context: the seemingly out-sourced corporate entity has already employed a number of former military officials including one with previous experience of being the Australian government's military attache for space-related matters in Washington, together with others who are already working alongside NASA administrators in Australia. (14)

It is a common practice for intelligence services to use front-type corporate bodies to avoid unnecessary publicity and to distance themselves from any controversy. It also enables them to hide behind the trade-craft of 'plausible denial' if detected.

LeoLabs recently announced that their project had the range and capacity to be 'the world's first commercial deep space radar … allowing detection of every object, in every orbit, in Australia's orbital area of interest'. (15) Such statements leave little to the imagination. With recent Australian diplomatic initiatives toward Taiwan, it would appear the faraway island, previously of little interest to Canberra, has recently been placed into Australia's orbital area of interest by the Pentagon.

With developments such as these taking place there is every likelihood Australia will be drawn into US-led regional hostilities with China during the future, possibly sooner rather than later!

                                             We need an independent foreign policy!


1.     China hawk to be next Japanese PM., Australian, 30 September 2021.
2.     Ibid.
3.     Japan contender eyes strike missiles, Australian, 9 September 2021.
4.     Taiwan is preparing for Chinese invasion, ABC On-line, 5 October 2021.
5.     Japan's push back on China right, Editorial, Australian, 1 October 2021.
6.     We won't bow to China: Taiwan, Australian, 11 October 2021.
7.     See: US to build anti-China missile network along first island chain, Nikkei, 5 March 2021; and, US Indo-Pacific command proposes new missile capabilities to deter China, RFA., 5 March 2021.
8.     My message to Taiwan: get ready to fight, Australian, 11 October 2021.
9.     See: The Secrets of Pine Gap, William Pinwill, Australian Penthouse, October 1979, pp. 62-68; and, The Falcon and the Snowman, Robert Lindsay, (New York, 1979).
10.   Australia Urged, Voice of America, 6 October 2021.
11.   The final frontier? Watch this space, Australian, 4 October 2021; and, Deep space project to monitor Australia's satellite threats, Australian, 8 October 2021.
12.   CIA sets up unit to target China threat, The Weekend Australian, 9-10 October 2021.
13.   Ibid.
14.   See: The final frontier, op.cit., 4 October 2021; and, Deep space project, op.cit., 8 October 2021.
15.   Deep space project, ibid., 8 October 2021.



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