Former prime minister Paul Keating says Canberra must be wary of any US "adventurism" over South China Sea tensions.
Former prime minister Paul Keating is adamant Canberra needs to tell the incoming Trump administration from the get-go that Australia will sit out any US "adventurism" over South China Sea tensions.
US secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson told a Senate confirmation hearing this week China's building of artificial islands and decision to put military assets on them was "akin to Russia's taking Crimea" from Ukraine.
Mr Tillerson said China should be sent a clear signal that the island building needs to stop and access to them "is not going to be allowed".
He also flagged the US had to "show back-up" with its traditional allies in the southeast Asia region.
Mr Keating urged Australia to be wary of the comments.
"When the US secretary of state-designate threatens to involve Australia in war with China, the Australian people need to take note," he said in a statement.
Australia should not provide naval commitment to joint operations in the South China Sea and no enhanced US military facilitation of such operations, he said.
Tillerson's claim China's control of access to the South China Sea would be a threat to the "entire global economy" was "ludicrous", Mr Keating said.
"No country would be more badly affected than China if it moved to impede navigation.
"On the other hand, Australia's prosperity and the security of the world would be devastated by war."
The South China Sea dispute involves overlapping claims from the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.