It's time to talk tough on the rough China seas

Australia’s passivity toward disputes in East Asia is largely explained by the fact that we seem to have no skin in the game. But doing nothing is becoming less and less of an option.

Much has already been written about the ongoing crisis near the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea between China and Vietnam, and as it worsens, much more will be penned on this issue. The blessing of geography offers Australia some strategic distance and therefore strategic depth and comfort from possible turmoil in East Asia. But we are hardly immune. Around two-thirds of Australian exports and half of its imports traverse through the South China Sea alone. And if recent trends are anything to go by, these crises are probably going to get even more frequent and less manageable. This means that we will not be able to stay on the sidelines -- diplomatically at least -- into the future.

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