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Penny Wong will meet Wang Yi on the sidelines of the UN this week


Penny Wong is “open to engagement” with her Chinese counterpart while in New York this week, but refused to back down from Australia’s position.

Following reports that the foreign minister is likely to meet Wang Yi again this week while in the US for the United Nations General Assembly, Senator Wong confirmed that the details of the tete-a-tete were being finalised.

It would mark the second meeting of foreign ministers in 12 weeks after nearly three years of deadlock.

“Once (those details are finalized), I’m sure we will have a fruitful engagement,” Senator Wong said.

“What I would like to say (however) is that our position, whether in or out of the meeting, remains consistent in relation to Australia’s national interests.

“We are interested in working with others to ensure strategic balance. We want a region in which sovereignty is respected.

“We want the region not to be a hegemon.”

Defense Secretary Richard Marles said that if the meeting takes place, it can be “considered in the context” of seeking to further stabilize relations.

“We want to change the tone of the relationship. We believe there was a belligerence in the way the former government talked about Australia’s place in the world, which did not advance our national interests,” he told ABC radio.

“We will always actively articulate Australia’s national interest, particularly when it differs from the actions of other countries, including China, and we will be completely open with China.”

If the meeting were to take place, it would mean that Beijing is willing to have high-level contacts with the Albanian government, despite the limited progress made on fundamental disagreements – such as Taiwan and trade – since Labor entered the position.

Senator Wong said Australia had maintained a consistent approach to Taiwan after US President Joe Biden confirmed that forces would defend Taiwan if China followed through on its “invasion” threats.

“We want to see peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. We do not want to see any unilateral changes to the status quo,” Senator Wong said.

“We want to see peace and stability.

“It is in the interest of the region and all countries to do everything possible to maintain the status quo.”

Mr Marles said while Australia “cannot control China’s behaviour”, leading ministers would like to engage in diplomacy and try to stabilize the relationship.

Mr Marles also confirmed the need for long-range nuclear submarines, despite their costs, because of the state of global affairs.

“As our world becomes more complex and the strategic circumstances we face become more complex, we must be able to do what we can to shape them to create our strategic space for trade and diplomacy,” he said.

“It’s at the heart of our prosperity, and making sure we have a long-range submarine is critical to that.”

Originally published as Penny Wong: A huge clue about Australia’s big move in China


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