Chinese ‘still friends’ as security plan takes shape
Australia has sought to reassure China of the “warm” relationship between the two countries after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull hailed progress on a new regional agreement that excludes the Asian superpower.
Mr Turnbull and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in the Philippines yesterday where the pair discussed regional security, including the threat of a nuclearised North Korea.
Australia has been ramping up pressure on Beijing to enforce sanctions on the regime of Kim Jong Un and has angered the Chinese government by pushing ahead with a revival of a new security grouping with India, the US and Japan.
Mr Turnbull said he would always be “frank” with China about Australia’s regional interests, and praised progress on the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue that excluded China.
“We have a lot of security issues on our agenda and the reality is the world is a pretty small place nowadays and you have got to work closely together,” he said.
While agreeing the relationship was in “good shape”, Mr Turnbull and Mr Li also discussed China’s contentious military build-up in the South China Sea, with Australia calling for an “effective and legally binding code of conduct” in accordance with international law.
Ahead of the meeting, Mr Turnbull joked the Chinese Premier was a natural diplomat after he revealed that Mr Li had displayed in his office a photograph of the pair wearing AFL scarves, which he had received as a gift on his trip to Australia.
Mr Li said the two countries were good friends and suggested the relationship between Australia and China was improving.
Speaking to leaders last night at the summit, Mr Turnbull said Australia’s position on disputed sovereignty in the South China Sea had been consistent and clear.
He said that while Australia did not take sides on competing territorial claims, the country had a vital interest in the continuation of a stable, rules-based order where disputes are resolved peacefully based on international law and where rights to freedom of navigation and overflight were respected. Earlier at the summit, Mr Turnbull met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue and trade matters.
“We have a lot going on in the India-Australia relationship on trade . . . but also again working more closely together on security, and on counter-terrorism,” Mr Turnbull said.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull meets with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Manila.