US-China tensions: Australian Minister discusses US alliance
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Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern, Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand respectively, discussed the ongoing threat of China in the region during a joint statement on May 31. The premiers expressed “serious concern” over the “continued militarisation of disputed features and an intensification of destabilising activities at sea” in the South China Sea.
In response to the statement, Wang Wenbin, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, said he was “deeply concerned”.
“The leaders of Australia and New Zealand, with irresponsible remarks on China’s internal affairs relating to Hong Kong and Xinjiang as well as the South China Sea issue, have made groundless accusations against China, grossly interfered in China’s internal affairs and seriously violated the international law and basic norms governing international relations,” he said.
He added that Beijing would not “waver in its resolve and will to reject any external interference in China’s internal affairs”.
In their joint statement, the leaders also underscored the importance of freedom of navigation in the region and emphasised that the South China Sea Code of Conduct should be consistent with international law.
They added that they also shared “deep” and “grave” concern over the rights of the people in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.
The premiers called upon China to respect the human rights of the Uyghur people and other Muslim minorities and to grant the United Nations and other independent observers “meaningful and unfettered access to the region.”
Mr Wang added a warning to nearby countries, that they should avoid “targeting or damaging the interests of third parties, and much less forming enclosed small clique with ideology as the yardstick”.
Tensions between the nations have been escalating in recent months after Beijing warned that Australia would be “the first to be hit” if they interfered with Taiwan.
They added that Australia was “within range” of China’s intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
China has also introduced almost $20 billion in tariffs together with a series of exporting bans against Australia.
Relations further deteriorated following Australia’s decision to ban Huawei from building its 5G network across the country.
Back in April, Michael Pezzullo, the Australian Home Affairs secretary said the “drums of war were getting louder”.
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Mr Morrison and Ms Ardern met in Queenstown on the last day of May for their annual Australia-New Zealand Leaders’ Meeting, during which they discussed a number of issues affecting both countries – including the Covid-19 pandemic, Trans-Tasman cooperation, economic ties and climate change.
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