Anthony Albanese’s first appearance on the world stage as prime minister for high-level meetings with the leaders of the United States, Japan and India highlighted the need for closer alliance cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region to counter China’s influence.
Mr Albanese was in Tokyo for a meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), using the visit to promote his new government’s commitment to the alliance and promising a more ambitious approach to climate change under his leadership.
But away from the script remarks, This was a critical line of discussion, particularly what action could be considered if China set up a military base in the South Pacific.
Mr Albanese was asked about the prospects of the conflict in the region after a high-level briefing from officials, members of Morrison’s previous government had warned.
“We want peace and stability in the region – this is best achieved through proper diplomatic processes and building relations in the region,” he said.
Mr Albanez said the Solomon Islands were discussed in the context that China “sought to exert more influence in the Pacific” during his talks with US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishido and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“We discussed the need for the Quad to be more involved in the Indo-Pacific region, which was a common theme to make sure we promote our common values in the region at a time when China is clearly seeking to be more influential,” he said. . .
Mr Albanez will also hold bilateral meetings on Tuesday with leaders who he said welcomed his government’s proposal to take more drastic action on climate change than Morrison’s previous government.
The Morrison government’s approach had previously been a point of tension with the Biden administration, leading to global calls for countries to take more ambitious action on climate change.
The Quad Security Summit will be held in Australia next year
Mr Albanese also confirmed that next year Australia will host Quad leaders.
Earlier, he addressed his colleagues with an introductory speech before the meeting, which indicates the intention of his new government to maintain the commitment of the alliance.
“Since we have gathered today, I acknowledge all that the Quad has achieved,” he said in his opening remarks in Tokyo.
“Together, we stand for a free, open and sustainable Indo-Pacific region and work together to address the greatest challenges of our time, including climate change and the security of our region.”
Mr Albanese, who was sworn in as prime minister on Monday, said he would continue to speak with like-minded allies as Australia regains its focus on the Indo-Pacific region and Southeast Asia.
“Our cooperation is based on the values we share – commitment to representative democracy, the rule of law and the right to live in peace,” he said.
“We will stand firm on our values and beliefs, on what we know will enhance the prosperity and stability of our region and what is firmly in the interests of all those who call the Indo-Pacific House.”
“We will attract more energy and resources to ensure the security of our region as we enter a new and more challenging phase in the strategic environment of the Pacific.”
In addition to regional security, the leaders’ meeting will also focus on establishing supply chain principles, including a discussion of human rights after the U.S. passed a law in December banning imports from China’s Xinjiang region.
A similar push in Australia came to a halt under the Morrison government, despite being recommended by the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs.
The focus will also be on telecommunications markets for 5G and 6G to counter China’s dominance in the field, as well as climate change, infrastructure needs and disaster relief cooperation.
Mr. Biden joked with Mr. Albanese .
“You took the oath, got on the plane, and if you fall asleep while you’re here, it’s okay,” he said.
The President of the United States stated that partnership is democracy against autocracy.
“We are going through a dark hour in our shared history. Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine has led to a humanitarian catastrophe, ”he said.
“The fundamental principles of international order, territorial integrity and sovereignty, international law and human rights must always be protected, no matter where in the world they are violated.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, US President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the Summit of Four Leaders in Kantei, Tokyo on May 24, 2022. Source: Getty, AFP / Saul Leb
Mr Biden was later questioned in connection with his statement on Monday that the US would intervene militarily if China attacked Taiwan.
Asked by a reporter whether the United States’ policy of strategic ambiguity towards the self-governing island was “dead”, he replied “no”.
Mr Albanez, when later asked about Taiwan, also said that “there should be no unilateral change in the status quo, our position has not changed.”
Foreign Minister Penny Wong held bilateral discussions with her counterparts from the US and India on the sidelines in Tokyo.
Senator Wong met with Subramaniyam Jaishankar on Monday night after arriving in Tokyo the same day he was sworn in, and on Tuesday morning he met with Anthony Blinken and White House Chief Security Adviser to the Indo-Pacific White House Kurt Kamp.
The meetings focused on China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region, including through its new security agreement with Solomon Islands, as well as the challenges offered by climate change.
“We discussed what is happening in the Pacific, in the Solomon Islands and the importance of working together with other partners to ensure the security of the region,” she said.
On Monday, Mr. Biden met with Mr. Kishid, where he presented the Indo-Pacific Economic Welfare Framework, which includes a dozen initial partners that make up 40 percent of world GDP. The partners are Australia, New Zealand, Japan, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Brunei.
This came after Australia condemned Russia along with the United States and Japan in a statement from seven countries on Monday after APEC, where there was no joint statement.
The official Quad communiqué is unlikely to clearly condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. India has refused to directly condemn the invasion over close military trade with the Kremlin.
China points to a possible thaw in frosty relations with Australia
Earlier, Beijing’s state media reported that Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang had sent a congratulatory note to Anthony Albanese, ending the annual freeze on diplomatic contacts between the two countries.
“The Chinese side is ready to cooperate with the Australian side to reconsider the past, to look to the future … to promote good and stable growth of their comprehensive strategic partnership,” said Premier Li, according to the Xinhua news agency. agency late Monday.
Mr Albanez said he would respond to the Chinese government’s letter accordingly, but assured that he remained concerned that Beijing was using economic coercion against Australia through the imposition of trade sanctions.
“Australia is committed to good relations with all countries, but not Australia has changed, and China has imposed sanctions against China,” he said.
Tensions between the two countries have risen in the last two years after Canberra called for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and banned telecom giant Huawei from building an Australian 5G network.
China, Australia’s largest trading partner, has responded by imposing tariffs or shutting down more than a dozen key industries, including wine, barley and coal.
– From AFP