Australia’s foreign minister warns of ‘catastrophic’ impact of Indo-Pacific war during UN address

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Foreign minister Penny Wong is expected to use her first major speech to the United Nations to warn of the impact of a war in the Indo-Pacific region, invoking the China-Taiwan tensions in all but name.
Wong is expected to not only condemn the invasion of Russia in Ukraine in her speech but she will also forewarn the “catastrophic” impact conflict in the Indo-Pacific would have on Australia and the other Asia-Pacific nations.

“In my own region, where geopolitical contest becomes ever sharper, we must ensure that competition does not escalate into conflict,” Wong is expected to say, in a copy of the speech provided ahead of the address.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong during a doorstop interview at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday 6 September 2022. fedpol Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Foreign Minister Penny Wong will address the United Nations. (The Sydney Morning Herald)

“Because if conflict were to break out in the Indo-Pacific, it would be catastrophic – for our people and our prosperity.

“And with the Indo-Pacific’s centrality to global prosperity and security, the cost would extend far beyond our region and reach into every life.”

Wong questions how countries can “apply the brakes” against rising tensions, like the one in the Indo-Pacific.

“It is up to all of us to ask ourselves how can we each use our state power, our influence, our networks, our capabilities, to avert catastrophic conflict?” she is expected to ask.

“How do we acquit our responsibilities to constrain tensions – to apply the brakes before the momentum for conflict in our region or beyond becomes unstoppable?”

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Us Secretary of State Antony Blinken attend the Indo-Pacific Quad meeting during the 77th United Nations General Assembly on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022. (David 'Dee' Delgado/Pool Photo via AP)
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Us Secretary of State Antony Blinken attend the Indo-Pacific Quad meeting during the 77th United Nations General Assembly on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022. (David ‘Dee’ Delgado/Pool Photo via AP) (AP)

Wong is addressing the UN to remind the group of Australia’s desire to have a seat on the council in 2029. She will support this by outlining Australia’s “resolve” to battle growing conflicts in the Asia Pacific.

“The Australian people want to be better, more involved, and more helpful members of the Pacific family,” Wong says.

“Australians want to enhance our defence, maritime and economic cooperation with Pacific Island Countries. And we want to be the Pacific’s partner of choice for development and security.

“It is why we seek a seat on the UN Security Council for 2029-2030. It is why we seek reform of the Security Council, with greater permanent representation for Africa, Latin America, and Asia, including India and Japan.”

‘We cannot leave it to the big powers’

She will outline Australia’s goal to become a significant player on the world stage and urge smaller countries to set their own fate aside from the one allegedly decided by global superpowers.

“It reminds us that each nation must make its own choices, and exercise its own agency. We cannot leave it to the big powers. And we cannot be passive when big powers flout the rules,” she will say.

“I say to small and medium-sized nations like my own: we are more than just supporting players in a grand drama of global geopolitics, on a stage dominated by great powers.

“It is up to all of us to create the kind of world to which we aspire – stable, peaceful, prosperous and respectful of sovereignty.”

Wong doubles down on China’s ability to stop Russia Ukraine conflict

In a speech after the meeting with Wang Yi, Wong said China has agreed to the UN Charter which is meant to protect international human rights and therefore has a “responsibility” to use its influence to stop the war.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong addresses the media after the meeting with China’s foreign minister. (9News)

In her address to the UN, Wong will double down on her calls for China, a “great power”, to use its clout to end the invasion of Russia in Ukraine.

“Russia’s attack on Ukraine is an attack on all smaller countries.,” she says.

”So it is especially important for countries that play leading roles in international fora, and countries with influence on Russia, to exert their influence to end this war.

“In this pursuit, the world looks to China, a great power, a Permanent Member of the Security Council, with a “no limits partnership” with Russia.”

Ukrainian soldiers embrace as Russians retreat

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