War over Taiwan would change world, says Australia ambassador to US Kevin Rudd


By Kirsty Needham

(Reuters) – Australia’s ambassador to the United States, Kevin Rudd, cautioned in a speech that the global consequences of a war over Taiwan would be as great as the impact of the Second World War, making the world “a radically different place”.

If Chinese President Xi Jinping, who turns 71 this month, wanted to achieve “final national unification” with Taiwan he would likely act in the next decade before he reaches his 80s, Rudd said in a speech in Honolulu on Thursday.

“We would be foolish to ignore the increasing clarity of China’s military signalling, including the pattern of its most recent military exercises,” said Rudd, who was twice Australia’s prime minister in the previous decade.

Whether China acts will depend on its perception of the strength of U.S. deterrence, he said.

China claims democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. Taiwan strongly objects to China’s sovereignty claims and says only the island’s people can decide their future.

The United States has expressed concern about Chinese military activity near Taiwan, including after the island’s presidential election and the inauguration of President Lai Ching-te last month. China has warned the U.S. should not interfere in China’s affairs with Taiwan.

Taiwan and the United States have no official diplomatic relationship, as Washington formally recognises Beijing but is bound by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself and is the island’s most important international backer.

The United States recognized that if China was successful in annexing Taiwan it would impact U.S. credibility and have “profound, and potentially irreversible effect on the perceived reliability of U.S. alliances worldwide”, Rudd said.

The United States, China and Taiwan have a common interest in avoiding open military confrontation on the future of Taiwan, said Rudd, a China scholar who was president of the Asia Society in New York until last year.

“The economic costs, domestic political impacts, and unknowable geo-strategic consequences that such a war would generate would likely be of an order of magnitude that we have not seen since the Second World War,” he said.

“Whatever the outcome (an American victory, a Chinese victory, or a bloody stalemate), the world is likely to become a radically different place after such a war than it was before.”

(Reporting by Kirsty Needham in Sydney; Editing by Christopher Cushing)



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