China says a “political force” in Australia that sees it as a rival and its development as a threat has been responsible for the deterioration of relations between the two countries.
- China signs over 50 deals during Wang’s regional tour
- Talks over a broad regional trade and security deal with 10 Pacific nations have stalled but could resume next year
- Mr Wang’s trip ended in Timor-Leste on Saturday
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made comments on China-Australia relations to members of the Chinese media during his visit to Papua New Guinea.
Mr Wang said a reset of the relationship required “concrete actions” and there was “no autopilot”.
“The crux of the difficulties in Sino-Australian relations in recent years is that a certain political force in Australia insists on seeing China as a rival rather than a partner and sees China’s development as a threat rather than a partner. ‘an opportunity,’ said a statement from China’s Foreign Ministry.
“This has led to a significant regression in Australia’s positive and pragmatic China policy for many years.
“The solution is to view China-China-Australia relations in a sensible and positive way, maintain mutual respect, seek common ground while putting aside differences, and create the necessary conditions to bring bilateral relations back to the normal path.”
The comments came as Mr Wang wraps up an eight-nation tour of the Pacific region that has raised concerns in Washington and Canberra.
Following her trip, Australia’s new foreign minister, Penny Wong, also flew to the region, visiting Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.
China signed more than 50 agreements during a tour of Pacific countries, but failed to convince 10 countries to sign a comprehensive regional trade and security agreement.
It now appears that discussions around this agreement could be postponed until next year and could lead to the creation of a new sub-regional discussion forum between China and the 10 Pacific countries that maintain diplomatic relations.
Agreements signed in Timor-Leste
Wang wrapped up his unprecedented tour of Timor-Leste on Saturday.
On the final leg of his trip, he held a series of meetings with Timorese President José Ramos-Horta, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and former President Xanana Gusmao.
The two countries have also signed several agreements on issues such as civil aviation, agriculture and strengthening economic and technical cooperation, as well as a media license agreement.
He traveled to Timor-Leste from Port Moresby, where he held talks with the PNG Foreign Minister and Prime Minister during a very brief visit.
The limited timetable in PNG was likely due to the country being in the midst of an election campaign, but Prime Minister James Marape hit back at criticism that the timing was awkward or inappropriate.
“Although we were not the main visitation point in the Pacific, we are privileged to have received it,” he said.
“The China-PNG relationship cannot be compromised or sabotaged – it is a very important relationship.”
In PNG, minor agreements have been signed on promoting investment in green development, COVID-19 relief and the development of an anti-narcotics centre.
“Give the Australian journalist a chance”
There were criticisms of the limited media access granted during Mr. Wang’s tour.
In Port Moresby, a joint press conference was scheduled but as it was about to start, the media learned that after the intervention of the two ministers, only a Chinese journalist and a journalist from PNG could ask a question to their own foreign minister.
Journalists in the Solomon Islands boycotted a press conference amid similar rules there.
However, when Mirriam Zarriga, a reporter for the PNG daily The Post Courier, asked about the Solomons’ security deal, the foreign ministers of PNG and China responded.
So, finally, a peaceful reporter was able to ask a question and get an answer from Mr. Wang.
At the end of the press conference, Mr. Wang then insisted on asking the ABC to also ask a question.
“The host country asked one question while China asked another,” he said in Mandarin.
“It seems Australian journalists have always wanted to ask questions.”
He turned to his PNG counterpart as he finished, saying: “If my friend agrees, we’ll give the Australian journalist a chance.”
The ABC asked Wang about the failure to get the 10 Pacific nations to sign the proposed regional deal, and whether he considered his trip a success.
After the joint press conference as PNG media interviewed Mr Marape, Chinese media conducted a separate interview in which Mr Wang commented on Australia-China relations.
In Timor-Leste, journalists protested the ban on asking questions of the foreign minister before the press conference, and Mr. Wang later agreed to talk to reporters.
Talks on China-Pacific regional pact could resume
When asked about the Solomon Islands security pact, PNG Foreign Minister Soroi Eoe said their discussions had not “addressed things of that nature”.
He said the deal was “between the Solomon Islands and China”.
Wang said the Solomon Islands had requested security cooperation and the deal was in line with international law.
“China has never imposed anything on others,” he said.
“As for some media reports that China is signing regional security agreements with all countries, I want to tell you that is misinformation.”
On the issue of the broader 10-nation deal that had been proposed by China, which included trade and security, Mr Eoe suggested it would be delayed.
“The Pacific island countries with which China has bilateral agreements have decided to postpone this discussion until next year,” he said.
Mr Eoe said it was a collective decision made with China to allow the issue to be properly discussed.
There had been suggestions that the deal could be taken to the Pacific Islands Forum, which includes four nations that recognize Taiwan instead of China, plus Australia and New Zealand.
Wang said that although China’s cooperation in the region is based on bilateral relations, it could establish a separate regional platform.
“In accordance with the wishes of the 10 island countries that have established diplomatic relations with China, we are also willing to build a subregional cooperation platform to carry out collective dialogue, strengthen our consensus, coordinate our cooperation and form greater synergy. “.
Frustration with geopolitics among Pacific nations
Geopolitics, the battle for influence and security tensions, were at the center of discussions on the trip, which was a point of frustration for many Pacific leaders who would prefer to focus on national development issues and change. climatic.
Marape said he wants China and Australia to focus on building trade ties with PNG and improving the country’s economy.
“Papua New Guinea’s fundamental foreign policy has always been: friends of all and enemies of no one,” he said.
“The latest contemporary debate between East and West, really, it’s a no-brainer for Papua New Guinea, we’re a level playing field for everyone.”
Prior to Wang’s visit, the ABC was reliably informed that the Chinese delegation would donate 2,000 helmets and sets of body armor, but that did not happen.
“There was no discussion at my meeting [with Wang Yi]if it happened and it may have happened elsewhere,” Mr Marape said.
Marape said PNG would take full responsibility for security matters and would not accept any subsidies or donations, including from Australia and China.
Australia provides significant support to PNG’s police and military, most recently donating 100 body-worn cameras from the Australian Federal Police.
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