Federal Election: Chinese media slams 'ironic' Morrison over 'red line' threat

When it comes to foreign policy, former US president Theodore Roosevelt famously quipped that leaders must "speak softly but carry a big stick".

Ahead of the Federal Election on May 21, the Morrison government has taken a decidedly different tack, with Defence Minister Peter Dutton warning we must "prepare for war" if we hope to keep the peace with China and Prime Minister Scott Morrison issuing "red line" threats to the Asian superpower.

Unsurprisingly, China has been quick to respond with its nationalistic state media arm The Global Times labelling Mr Morrison's threat "ironic".

An Op-ed published overnight in the increasingly jingoistic tabloid controlled by the Chinese Communist Party took aim at the US and Australian alliance for not respecting the "red lines" of other countries, and even came to the defence of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare reviews the honour guard during a welcome ceremony with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China October 9, 2019.  REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare in China in 2019. Source: Reuters

"Has NATO, which provoked Russia for decades through an eastward expansion respected Russia's red line?

"And has Australia, which kept sending lethal weapons to the war zone to support Ukraine, ever taken Russia's red line into account?" the article said.

"When China draws its red lines based on its own territory, sovereignty and core interests, Canberra and the US are doodling their red lines far away from their borders, turning a blind eye to others' sovereignty," the Op-ed decried, invoking the work of academics.

"The relevant standard of the US and Australia has been ironic: They can provoke, but whoever fights back would be called an 'aggressor.' They can condemn any country, yet whoever talks back will be labeled a 'wolf worrier;' They can have all forms of military cooperation with others, but China's legitimate security collaboration with others is a 'threat'."

Speaking at a daily press briefing on Monday, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin was asked about the comments by the Australian Prime Minister that a Chinese base in the Solomon Islands would cross a "red line" for the US and Australia.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin has been characteristically sharp-tongued in the latest war of words. Source: AAP
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin has been characteristically sharp-tongued in the latest war of words. Source: AAP

"The speculation that China will build a military base in Solomon Islands is pure disinformation fabricated by a handful of people who harbour ulterior motives," he claimed.

"Island countries in the South Pacific are independent and sovereign states, not a backyard of the US or Australia," he added.

Morrison slams Labor's plan for the Pacific as 'farcical'

How to deal with China and its expansion in Australia's region has taken centre stage in the past week of the federal election campaign.

Mr Morrison and his ministers have declined to say how they would seek to stop a Chinese naval base materialising in the Solomon Islands, or what action would be warranted should China cross that line.

Meanwhile Labor will today announce a seven-point plan to step up engagement in the Pacific to combat China's growing influence. It includes a $6.5 million Australia Pacific Defence School to train local defence personnel and an annual $8 million funding boost to the ABC's international broadcasting program over four years to boost Australia's soft power among our neighbours.

Mr Morrison has described the plan as "farcical".

"(Labor) think the way to solve the problem in the Solomon Islands is to send in the ABC," he told 2GB radio on Tuesday.

"Their answer to solving the Solomon Islands problem is to have Q&A in Honiara."

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