Australian Foreign Secretary warns of ‘catastrophic’ impact of Indo-Pacific war during UN speech

Minister of Foreign Affairs Penny Wong delivered her first major speech to the United Nations to warn of the consequences of a war in the Indo-Pacific region, evoking tensions between China and Taiwan in all but name.
Wong not only condemned the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in her speech, but she also warned in advance of the “catastrophic” impact that conflict in the Indo-Pacific would have on Australia and the other countries in Asia-Pacific.

“In my own region, where the geopolitical battle is becoming increasingly fierce, we need to ensure that competition does not escalate into conflict,” Wong said.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York. (9News)

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

“And with the central role of the Indo-Pacific in global prosperity and security, the costs would extend far beyond our region and into every lifetime.”

Wong wondered how countries can “step on the brakes” against rising tensions, such as those in the Indo-Pacific.

“It’s up to all of us to ask ourselves how we can each use our state power, our influence, our networks, our capabilities to prevent catastrophic conflict?” she asked.

“How do we take our responsibility to limit tensions – to put the brakes on before the momentum for conflict in our region or beyond is unstoppable?”

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

Wong addresses the UN to remind the group of Australia’s desire to have a seat on the council by 2029. She will support this by outlining Australia’s “solution” to combat the growing conflicts in the Asia-Pacific.

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

“Australians want to strengthen our defence, maritime and economic cooperation with islands in the Pacific. And we want to be the Pacific’s preferred partner for development and security.”

“That is why we are seeking a seat on the UN Security Council for 2029-2030. That is why we are striving to reform the Security Council, with greater permanent representation for Africa, Latin America and Asia, including India and Japan.”

‘We can’t leave it to the great powers’

Outlining Australia’s goal of becoming a major player on the world stage, she urged smaller nations to set their own fate aside from the fate supposedly decided by global powers.

“It reminds us that each country has to make its own choices and exercise its own agency. We cannot leave it to the great powers. And we cannot be passive when big powers break the rules,” she said.

“I say to small and medium-sized countries like mine: we support more than just actors in a grand drama of global geopolitics, on a stage dominated by major powers.

“It’s up to all of us to create the kind of world we aspire to — stable, peaceful, prosperous and respectful of sovereignty.”

Wong doubles China’s ability to end Russia-Ukraine conflict

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

Foreign Minister Penny Wong addresses media after meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister. (9News)

In her speech to the UN, Wong reiterated her call on China, a “great power”, to use its power to end Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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

 “So it is especially important for countries that play a leading role in international forums, and countries with influence over Russia, to use their influence to end this war.

“In this pursuit, the world is looking to China, a great power, a permanent member of the Security Council, with a ‘no borders partnership’ with Russia.”

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