Australia and China Boost Military Communication amid Stabilized Relations

Australia and China have agreed to enhance military communication to prevent incidents, marking a stabilization in relations after recent tensions. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Premier Li Qiang discussed various issues, including regional security and economic cooperation, during Li's four-day visit. The dialogue aims to ensure peaceful and prosperous regional dynamics.

Reuters | Updated: 17-06-2024 12:26 IST | Created: 17-06-2024 12:26 IST
Australia and China Boost Military Communication amid Stabilized Relations
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Australia and China will take steps to improve military communication to avoid incidents, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said after meeting Premier Li Qiang on Monday, in the first visit to the country by a Chinese premier in seven years. The visit by Li, China's top-ranked official after President Xi Jinping, marks a stabilisation in relations between the U.S. security ally and the world's second-biggest economy, after a frosty period of Beijing blocking $20 billion in Australian exports and friction over defence encounters.

"One of the very practical measures that we spoke about was improving military to military communication so as to avoid incidents," Albanese told reporters in Canberra after the meeting, which Defence Minister Richard Marles also attended. In an incident last month, a Chinese airforce jet dropped flares near an Australian defence helicopter in international airspace over the Yellow Sea, which Australia said was a dangerous encounter.

It was the second defence incident in six months to mar growing rapprochement between the two countries after years of strained relations. Albanese told reporters he had "raised our issues in the Pacific", a reference to Canberra's concern over Beijing's growing security ambitions in nearby Pacific Islands, as well as human rights and Russia's invasion of Ukraine. He had also brought up the case of China-born Australian writer Yang Hengjun, who was sentenced to a suspended death sentence by a Beijing court, he said.

Beginning with some panda and wine diplomacy on Sunday, Li is on a four-day visit. The two leaders will travel separately to the mining state of Western Australia on Monday evening, where they will hold roundtable talks on Tuesday with business leaders. "This dialogue has allowed us to build a deeper awareness of our respective interests," Albanese said earlier, noting Australia and China had complementary economies and shared interests in addressing climate change.

"We also have our differences… that's why candid dialogue is so important. For Australia, we consistently advocate the importance of a region and world that is peaceful, stable and prosperous, where countries respect sovereignty and abide by international laws," he said. After the meeting, Li told reporters the leaders held a "candid, in-depth and fruitful meeting and reached a lot of consensus".

The two countries would expand cooperation in energy and mining, and China would include Australia in its visa waiver programme, he added. "We both stressed the importance of maintaining communication and coordination to jointly safeguard peace and prosperity in the region and beyond," he said.

China's state news agency Xinhua reported Li had told Albanese to "oppose bloc confrontation and the 'new Cold War'", a likely reference to Australia's QUAD and AUKUS partnerships with the United States, India, Japan and Britain, which China says are attempts to contain it. PROTESTERS, SUPPORTERS GATHER

Protesters and supporters gathered on Monday morning on the lawn outside parliament house in Canberra, where there was a heavy police presence, as a ceremonial welcome was held for Li. Barricades separated Tibetan, Uyghur, Hong Kong and Falun Gong protesters from a large contingent of pro-China supporters.

Tibetan Tenzin Wougyal, 37, a Canberra resident, said he came to show Tibet's culture, religion and language are at risk. "Australia should be cautious about what it is doing — don't sacrifice human rights for short-term economic business," he said.

Tan Zhu, 50, said he travelled from Sydney to welcome Li to Canberra. "The relationship with Australia has become much better. That's very positive," he said.

Trade between Australia and China reached A$327 billion ($216 billion) last year as Beijing's trade blocks eased. Australia is the biggest supplier of iron ore to China and China has been an investor in Australian mining projects.

Li's visit raises the issue of whether Australia will continue to accept high levels of Chinese investment in its critical minerals sector, as Western security allies push to reduce reliance on Beijing for the rare earths vital to electric vehicles. Australia last month blocked several Chinese investors from increasing stakes in a rare earths miner on national interest grounds. "It is hoped that the Australian side will provide a fair, just and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese enterprises and provide more convenience for personnel exchanges between the two sides," Li said in comments reported by Xinhua. ($1 = 1.5142 Australian dollars)

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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