Defence Minister Richard Marles.
Defence Minister Richard Marles will urge China to pressure Russia to end its invasion of Ukraine. Image by AP PHOTO
  • politics

Defeating Russia doesn’t mean we attack China: minister

Dominic Giannini June 1, 2024

China helping the West defeat Russia’s invasion of Ukraine doesn’t mean the communist country would be targeted in turn, Defence Minister Richard Marles says.

Western nations have been calling on Beijing to use its diplomatic leverage with Russia to pressure the Kremlin to end its attack on Ukraine.

Mr Marles will use an address at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore to a room full of his counterparts and senior defence officials on Saturday to call on China to take a stronger stance against Russia.

“There has been a view, sometimes expressed by Chinese officials, that the West is asking China to help defeat Russia so it then has a freer hand to defeat China itself,” an excerpt from his speech reads.

“This view is reliant on the idea of indelible Western hostility to China. That is totally wrong.”

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.
 Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks in May. Image by AP PHOTO 

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin updated a strategic partnership aimed at deepening diplomatic relations earlier this month.

China has also been accused of providing Russia with critical components used to maintain its military might as its losses in Ukraine depleted its stockpile. China has denied supplying Moscow with weapons against international sanctions.

A stronger stance from Beijing against the invasion would show it supported the international principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, Mr Marles said. 

Beijing has often hit out at other nations for conducting freedom of navigation exercises through the Taiwan Strait, which it says threatens its territorial integrity as the island democracy is part of China.

“China making clear, in word and deed, that it does not support the invasion of a sovereign country … would be a huge vote of confidence in Chinese regional and global leadership,” Mr Marles will say in his speech. 

“The importance of this cannot be overstated.”

Chinese leadership was needed to ensure a stable region, which would not only be impossible without Beijing playing a major role but also if China continued to ignore international law and the rights of its neighbours.

The defence minister will also use the speech to further call out Chinese military actions against Philippine and Australian vessels and aircraft, which have led to an escalation in tensions. 

This includes a Chinese jet launching flares in front of an Australian navy helicopter and the use of sonar against Australian naval divers.

While the majority of Australian interactions with the Chinese military were safe and professional, the rapid build-up meant incidents were occurring much more frequently, Mr Marles will say. 

“China’s behaviour towards Taiwan creates similar concerns,” he adds.

“(People’s Liberation Army) exercises that practise attacks and blockades of Taiwan do not inspire confidence that China prioritises – or is planning for – a peaceful settlement to the status of this island and its 22 million people.”

The Chinese military has made a record number of incursions across the Taiwan Strait this year. 

This included military drills that surrounded Taiwan following the inauguration of the island’s democratically elected president.