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Australia facing 'most confronting circumstances' at the hands of China

Foreign Minister Penny Wong has criticised the continued commentary on the possibility of war with China.

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong says Australia's region is now facing "unprecedented circumstances", however she has reiterated Canberra's desire to quash any discussion of war with China.

Addressing the National Press Club on Monday, she told attendees an escalation in military drills from China in relation to disputes with Taiwan and Japan, combined with the risk of miscalculation meant the region faces "the most confronting circumstances in decades".

"So this is why I am so steadfast in refusing to engage in speculation about regional flash points... Anyone in positions like mine who feels an urge to add to that discussion should resist the temptation," she said. "It is the most dangerous of parlour games."

Penny Wong addressed the National Press Club on Monday. Source: ABC
Penny Wong addressed the National Press Club on Monday. Source: ABC

The hypothetical war scenario has been a hot topic in recent weeks in the wake of Australia's landmark submarine deal as part of the AUKUS security pact. That has been widely seen as a direct counter measure to China's growing assertiveness in the region, with Australian media coverage speculating war with China could be as little as three years away.

Senator Wong said war over Taiwan "would be catastrophic for all". "We know there would be no real winners," she said, adding such media speculation had proven "unhelpful".

Senator Wong said the Albanese government was committed to averting conflict, joking such a stance would not sell as many newspapers, but it will help publishers "sell them for a lot longer".

Senator Wong has previously been praised by Beijing for her role in improving ties between the two countries, having avoided the often brash Chinese commentary seen by the former government who often hyped the threat of war with China.

"In our China relationship specifically, we will be calm and consistent and continue to do as we have since coming to office. Cooperate where we can, disagree where we must, manage our differences wisely, and above all, engage in and vigorously pursue our own national interests. We start with the reality that China is going to continue to keep being China," she said on Monday.

Australia opposes 'dominating' country in region

However she stressed it was vital to ensure "a great power like China" did not overstep its mark.

"We need not waste energy with shock or outrage at China seeking to maximise its advantage. Instead, we have to channel our energy in pressing for our own advantage," she said.

"We deploy our own state craft towards shaping a region that is open, stable and prosperous. A predictable region operating by agreed rules, standards and rules where no country dominates, and no country is dominated. A region where sovereignty is respected."

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