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Australia wants to work with China to ensure peace in Indo-Pacific, says Dutton

“But we don’t do that in an antagonistic way, we do it in a way to protect our sovereignty and our national interests. We don’t support militarisation of ports, we don’t support any foreign country trying to exert influence here via cyber or other means. We don’t want to see conflict in our region.

“We will continue to work very closely with countries like China as well because that’s a very important partnership.”

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The Biden administration will not grant China any improvement in relations until Beijing stops its economic coercion of Australia, a senior White House official told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age last month.

US President Joe Biden’s Indo-Pacific co-ordinator, Kurt Campbell, said Washington was “not going to leave Australia alone on the field” when it came to ensuring peace in the region, taking aim at Beijing for applying trade bans and tariffs on at least $20 billion worth of Australian exports to China.

“We have made clear that the US is not prepared to improve relations in a bilateral and separate context at the same time that a close and dear ally is being subjected to a form of economic coercion,” Dr Campbell said in the first interview a senior Biden official has given to any Australian media.

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In an interview with The Australian on Saturday, Mr Pompeo said he believed Beijing could launch military action against Taiwan in the next few years.

“The reunification of Taiwan is something they are intent upon. The means that they will use are likely to be coercive at the front end and military at the back end, only when necessary,” he said.

He said the Quadrilateral Dialogue, involving the US, Australia, Japan and India, was critical in resisting Chinese ­domination.

“These are four great friends,” he said. “They are real democracies, with all the noise and hubbub that comes with that, but they are real democracies working every day to make their countries great.”

Mr Dutton said Australia was determined to continue to work “very closely” with all of its partners in the Indo-Pacific.

“All of us want to see emerging super-nations like China, and existing ones like the United States, work closely together,” he said. “We want to make sure that [conflict] doesn’t become a reality.”

Mr Dutton said he was reviewing major parts of Australia’s $270 billion investment in Attack-class submarines, the Future Frigate program and offshore patrol vessels over the coming decade.

He said it was inevitable that projects of such size would be affected by cost and time blowouts but the first aim was to ensure Australian industry would be benefiting from the record funding.

Mr Dutton said he would not tolerate any slippage in relation to Australian content, and said he had been “very clear” to the Defence department that he would allocate more resources to ensure that remained on track. He said he would have “more to say” about the submarine program soon.

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