Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 08:32 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 08:32 | SYDNEY

Between past and future in North Asia


Rory Medcalf


21 April 2011 15:47

It would be hard to draw a sharper picture of the balancing act Australia faces in North Asia: on Monday, Prime Minister Julia Gillard will commemorate Australians' sacrifice in a bloody Korean War battle, then fly straight to Beijing, capital of the nation we were fighting against.

Every other time an Australian leader has commemorated Anzac Day overseas, both the battlefield and the adversary were ones we knew we would never face again. But on Monday Julia Gillard will mark the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Kapyong, where 32 Australians died fighting off a Chinese onslaught during the Korean War.

No longer it seems, will Korea be Australia's forgotten war — and rightly so. The diplomacy, however, might be tricky.

These days China is our largest trading partner and a US-China conflict would be ruinous for the region and for Australia. Yet as last year's Lowy poll suggested, a growing number of Australians are becoming concerned about the security implications of China's rise

Julia Gillard may see her current visit to Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing principally as a chance to build her foreign policy credentials and an opportunity to pursue a constructive agenda in trade, disaster relief and multilateral cooperation. 

But, as I explored in this interview, the China leg of the visit next week could involve real tests for her diplomatic skills and her values in how to address the recent crackdown on dissidents. And as I will explain in Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald, North Asian security diplomacy can be delicate and dangerous territory for an Australian leader.

Photo by Flickr user Leonard John Matthews.