Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Australia should do more to support democracies like Taiwan while China increases its influence in the Asia-Pacific region.
In an impassioned speech earlier this month at the government-backed Yushan Forum in Taipei, Abbott warned that China’s internal troubles might lead the country to lash out at Taiwan. Just days before Abbott traveled to Taiwan, China deployed 149 flights to Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) between October 1 and October 4, a record number.
Abbott said Taiwan’s “friends” need to show their support now more than ever because “there is no struggle between freedom and tyranny more violent than crossing the Taiwan Strait.”
Although no longer in office, Abbott’s speech drew attention for his strong and vocal support for Taiwan, an unusual attitude for any former leader because of Taipei’s diplomatic isolation.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has stressed that Abbott was traveling as a “citizen” even though he was received by President Tsai Ing-wen ahead of her October 8 speech and was also allowed to bypass quarantine protocols.
Despite Abbott’s outspoken comments, his visit to Taiwan is in line with Australia’s general stance. The country’s relations with China became heated after Australia demanded an investigation into the origins of COVID-19.
Australia does not officially recognize the Taiwanese government, but has maintained close and “tacit” ties over the years. [ka/ab]