Chi­nese ‘still friends’ as se­cu­rity plan takes shape

The West Australian - - NEWS - Sarah Martin Manila

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.

Pic­ture: AAP

Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull meets with Chi­nese Premier Li Ke­qiang in Manila.

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