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Friday, January 13, 2017

Former PM Paul Keating accuses Rex Tillerson threatening to involve Australia in war

Former prime minister Paul Keating has accused United States secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson of threatening to involve Australia in war.

Earlier this week, the former Exxon Mobil chief executive said the US would send a "clear signal" to China that its access to artificial islands in the South China Sea would be blocked.

In a confirmation hearing before the US Senate and Foreign Relations Committee, Mr Tillerson also said the US's traditional allies in South-East Asia should also provide "back up" in the region.

In a statement, Mr Keating said the Australian people needed to take note of Mr Tillerson's statements, which he described as "simply ludicrous".

"When the US secretary of state-designate threatens to involve Australia in war with China, the Australian people need to take note," he said.

"That is the only way Rex Tillerson's testimony that a 'signal' should be sent to China that 'access to these islands is not going to be allowed', and that US allies in the region should be there 'to show back-up', can be read."

China has laid claim to a swathe of shoals and islands inside what is known as the "Nine-Dash Line", which represents about 90 per cent of the South China Sea.

In his statement, Mr Keating rejected Mr Tillerson's claim that China's control of access the South China Sea would be a threat to the entire global economy.

"On the other hand, Australia's prosperity and the security of the world would be devastated by war."

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