China is set to wage a campaign of harassment against Australia by sending a militia of armed and unmarked fishing boats into its waters, the Taiwanese government has warned.
Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said China was likely to launch what is known as a 'grey-zone' war in Australian waters by sending civilian vessels commandeered by the communist nation's navy.
The risk of war with China in the Indo-Pacific region is growing and the world is facing uncertainty not seen since the 1930s, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has plenty to think about with increasing fears of war, as experts warn China is already targeting an expansion of Beijing's influential 'grey-zone war' into Australian waters
Some of the 220 Chinese vessels are seen moored at Whitsun Reef, South China Sea. The Philippine government expressed concern after spotting more than 200 Chinese fishing vessels it believed were crewed by militias at a reef claimed by both countries
Australia's relationship with China - its largest trading partner by far - has rapidly deteriorated since the Morrison government called for a pandemic inquiry last year, with Beijing blocking several key Aussie exports including coal, barley, beef, seafood and wine.
Chinese ministers have refused to answer calls from their Australian counterparts, even though Mr Morrison says he 'stands ready' to engage in talks.
Grey-zone operations are regarded as a type of state-led intimidation below the level of a traditional military build-up, but which has a similar purpose.
Those operations are aimed at bullying Australia into a slow-drip submission to Chinese will and expansion, Dr Wu told The Weekend Australian.
'The new phenomenon we are seeing is part of what I would describe as China's 'grey zone' operations, where it sends in its maritime militia – large fishing boats armed, operated and following the orders of China's navy – to harass and intimidate their perceived enemies,' Dr Wu said.
'This is something Australia hasn't experienced yet – but it is coming.'
Beijing has denied its maritime militia even exists.
Last month, Major General Adam Findlay is understood to have said in a background briefing a grey-zone war is already underway with Chin, Sky News reported.
Beijing has had increasingly mocked Australia's defiance towards China since relations soured after Canberra called for an inquiry into the origins of the Coronavirus pandemic
Nations including Taiwan and the Philippines have noted regular incursions inside their official maritime boundaries by civilian Chinese vessels.
In March 2020, Chinese fishing vessels were recorded close to the Whitsun Reef in the South China Sea, an area officially that is Filipino.
The Philippines has demanded a 'threatening' Chinese presence in the region disperse, but Beijing shrugged and maintained the ships were not part of its military and were seeking shelter from rough seas.
Dr Wu claimed China had ambitions that led much wider than the South China Sea and would inevitably lead its martime militia inside Australian waters.
Three Chinese Navy ships made a four-day visit to Sydney in June 2019 with Scott Morrison saying it was reciprocal after Australian naval vessels visited China. Since then relations have soured
He claimed China's re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the Solomon Islands was likely to be strategic and should be a worry for Australia given the islands are just over 3,000km away.
Dr Wu said Taiwan had been facing Chinese intimidation for decades and wants to see democratic nations unite against aggression from Beijing.
The United States too, by virtue of its interests in the region, are also involved in this escalating grey-zone war.