Saturday Feb 04, 2023

China’s foreign minister suggests how Australia can fix tense relations


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China’s foreign minister has blamed a “political force” in Australia for viewing his country as a threat rather than an opportunity and causing a “significant retrogression” of previously longstanding relations.

Wang Yi said resetting relations would require looking at China–Australia relations “in a sensible and positive way” and upholding mutual respect.

Mr Wang has been touring Pacific nations amid growing tensions in the region as China tries to garner support for a multi-nation deal with countries, as well as multiple bilateral partnerships.

China signed more than 50 agreements on the unprecedented tour but was unable to convince 10 nations to sign up to a regional trade and security deal.

Mr Wang was asked about the future of China-Australia relations during his visit to Papua New Guinea on Friday, according to a statement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“The crux of the difficulties in China–Australia relations in the past few years is that some political force in Australia insists on viewing China as a rival rather than a partner and framing China’s development as a threat rather than an opportunity,” said a statement, posted on the ministry’s website on Friday night.

“This has led to a significant retrogression of the many-year positive and pragmatic China policy by Australia.

“The solution is looking at China and China–Australia relations in a sensible and positive way, uphold mutual respect, seek common ground while shelving differences, and create the necessary conditions for bringing bilateral relations back on the normal track.”

“State Councilor Wang stressed that to improve China-Australia relations, there is no ‘auto-pilot’ mode.

“A reset requires concrete actions. This meets the aspirations of people in both countries and the trend of our time.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs has been contacted for comment.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong is also touring the Pacific, and on Friday said the security of the island nations must remain in the hands of the region.

Senator Wong said she had received correspondence from her Chinese counterpart following her election and would respond in due course as appropriate.

The Chinese premier had reached out to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese too, who also said he would respond in due course.

PM’s Indonesian trip

Meanwhile Mr Albanese will look to strengthen ties with Asia when he travels to Indonesia for key talks on Sunday.

The three-day visit to Jakarta is Mr Albanese’s second overseas trip since he became prime minister last month.

Mr Albanese will meet with Indonesian President Joko Widodo during the visit.

While his first trip was to Tokyo for the Quad leaders’ summit, Mr Albanese said during the election campaign that Australia needed to build closer ties with Indonesia, having described the Asian nation as a future superpower.

“Indonesia is one of our closest neighbours, which is why I committed to visiting as soon as possible,” he said.

“Our two countries have a long history of cooperation and friendship, and my government will work with Indonesia to deepen this.”

On the agenda will be trade, climate change and energy, as well as regional and global interests.

Discussions are also set to take place on the Indonesia-Australia comprehensive economic partnership agreement, along with Australia’s proposed $200 million climate and infrastructure fund.

Mr Albanese will also meet with ASEAN Secretary-General Dato Lim Jock Hoi while in Jakarta.

The prime minister will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Penny Wong, Trade Minister Don Farrell, Industry Minister Ed Husic and Darwin-based MP Luke Gosling on the visit

A high-level delegation of Australian business leaders will also travel to Indonesia as part of the country’s contingent.

Senator Wong said the government was serious about its engagement with Indonesia.

“We share a fundamental interest in promoting a more prosperous, stable and secure region, where sovereignty is respected,” she said.

“Australia’s partnership with Indonesia has never been more consequential to this objective.”

Mr Albanese’s upcoming visit continues on an Australian diplomatic tradition where new prime ministers have made Indonesia one of their first international ports of call upon taking office.

Indonesia was the first overseas visit for former prime ministers Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull.

Indonesia had raised concerns last year about Australia signing up to the AUKUS security pact with the United Kingdom and US, as well as its decision to acquire nuclear submarines as part of the deal.

New treasurer Jim Chalmers has already spoken with his Indonesian counterpart ahead of the prime minister’s visit.

The visit to Indonesia by Mr Albanese won’t be the only one this year, with Indonesia also playing host to the G20 summit.

World leaders will meet in Bali in November, while finance ministers will meet in July.

—AAP





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