Having failed to develop a coherent foreign policy for the region, particularly the Pacific, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has rounded on the Solomons with a statement that should they proceed to allow the Chinese to develop defence facilities they will ‘cross a red line’. What is he talking about? What is the red line? What is either side of it?
Clearly it is a threat against the Solomons and an implied threat toward China. It is this sort of threat that the Solomons claim to have undertaken an agreement with the Chinese to protect themselves against. The aggressive intent behind Morrison’s statement will push the Solomons even more into the arms of the Chinese. It also flies in the face of an earlier statement acknowledging the sovereignty of the Solomons.
Was Morrison issuing his threat on behalf of Australia or America? Australia does not have the military capacity to carry out the threat. The US has the capacity but would it be prepared for the losses it would incur to keep the Chinese militarily out of the Solomons? Going on the Ukraine it would not.
However, were an AUKUS undertaking to be mounted the Chinese would probably target the weakest link in the alliance, with the thought of teaching Australia a lesson and forcing us out of the alliance. As well as surface vessels, drones and manned aircraft the Chinese would probably target Pine Gap. Is the Solomons worth that?
Taiwan has gleefully waded into Morrison’s mess, stirring the pot with talk of threats to shipping routes to Taiwan from the US should the Chinese build a naval base on the Solomons. There is no such threat.
It should be noted that Morrison made his threat without any reference to advising and consulting with the Australian parliament. Australia is in caretaker mode. Convention dictates that he makes no policy statements or undertake policy changes, which his statement represents, without consulting with the opposition and the Australian people. This he has not done. This is what the AWPR is seeking to change and reform. Morrison is behaving like a one-man band, a dictator.
It follows years of neglect of the Pacific and near neighbours. It follows arrogance, racism, condescension and patronising of Pacific Islands nations. It has gone on for 25 years. It began with the withdrawal of Radio Australia. It was revealed with Dutton’s disparaging comments about rising waters of the Pacific and Morrison’s arrogant disregard for climate warming and the concerns expressed to him by Pacific Island heads of state and other leaders and experts. The Fijian Prime Minister took him to task on the issue three years ago, as has the Singaporean Prime Minister.
Climate warming is the issue that is front and centre for the Pacific states and Morrison scoffed at them, little wonder that the Chinese took advantage of the anger and the opportunity offered. Contempt and encouragement given to corruption underlay the Australian decision to dump refugees on Manus and Nauru. Lack of interest and compassion was illustrated in the tawdry response to Covid in PNG and the half-hearted response to climate change storms and extensive damage recently in Timor Leste.
Why wouldn’t the Chinese seek to fill the vacuum created by Australian arrogance and stupidity?