KEVIN Rudd has told hundreds of Chinese military officers in Beijing that he is deeply concerned about hardening Japanese attitudes towards China over Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea and he warned of the risks to peace in the region.
The former prime minister delivered a lengthy speech at the National Defence University, China's equivalent of the US's West Point, in which he warned of potential points of conflict in the region and urged prompt action to defuse them. Mr Rudd said he had studied the relationship between Japan and China for all of his professional life. "But I have never seen it as bad as this."
On Friday, he took the unusual step for a high-profile Australian politician of raising concerns with the military elite of a nation identified in current and future Defence white papers as a possible threat, about the new government of one of Australia's closest allies.
He told the Chinese officers that a number of Southeast Asian states had expressed concerns about China's assertion of its territorial claims in the South China Sea and that boundary questions had also emerged with Korea and Japan.
"This has also resulted in an increase in foreign policy tensions in the region," Mr Rudd said.
He said some had argued that the election of President Park Guen-hye in South Korea and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan provided a new opportunity for a fresh start.