Foreign minister Penny Wong touches on tension points ahead of diplomatic talks with China’s premier

Eleanor Campbell
NewsWire
Senator Wong greeted Premier Li at Adelaide airport on Saturday.
Senator Wong greeted Premier Li at Adelaide airport on Saturday. Credit: Ben Clark/NewsWire

Penny Wong has reiterated Australia’s concerns over China’s reported involvement in Russia’s war against Ukraine and increased tensions in the Indo-Pacific ahead of talks with Chinese officials.

The foreign minister will meet with Chinese Premier Li Qiang at an Adelaide winery on Sunday, after China’s second most senior leader landed for a four-day diplomatic tour.

Appearing on ABC’s Insiders ahead of discussions, Senator Wong hailed China’s improved relationship with Australia and said stronger ties would further promote regional stability.

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“This is obviously a really important visit, it is the first visit in seven years by the Chinese premier and it comes after two years of very deliberate, very patient work by this government to bring about a stabilisation of the relationship,” she said.

VISIT by the PREMIER of CHINA
Mr Li will also visit Canberra and Western Australia. Credit: Ben Clark/NewsWire

“I said before the election we wanted to stabilise the relationship. What that meant was a recognition that there would be differences that have to be managed in the relationship.”

Mr Li visited a pair of pandas on loan from China to Adelaide’s zoo on Sunday ahead of a visit to Magill Estate and a meeting Senator Wong and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Asked about a statement issued yesterday by G7 leaders calling on China to cease the transfer of weapons components Russia in its war against Ukraine, Senator Wong said she has expressed similar views.

“We will continue to express to China our views about the importance of the war ending and Ukraine being able to secure peace on its own terms.”

Supplied Editorial
Anthony Albanese will meet with Premier Li in Canberra on Monday. Credit: Supplied

Following Mr Li’s visit next week, Senator Wong and Defence Minister Richard Marles will both fly to Papua New Guinea he to attend the 30th Australia-PNG ministerial forum.

It comes after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi both made separate high-profile visits to PNG in April where each country inked new economic trade deals with the neighbouring island nation.

Signalling towards Beijing’s campaign to assert itself as dominant regional power in the Pacific, Senator Wong said Australia was locked in “a state of permanent contest” over its economic and diplomatic influence of the region.

“The reality is Mr Dutton and the Coalition abandoned the field in the Pacific and others have filled that space,” she said.

“We are now in a position where Australia is a partner of choice but the opportunity to be the only partner of choice has been lost by Mr Dutton and his colleagues and we are in a state of permanent contest in the Pacific. “

Asked to respond to US Ambassador Kevin Rudd’s comments that leaders would be “foolish” to ignore China’s ramped-up military presence near Taiwan, Senator Wong added the region was one of the “riskiest flash points in the world.”

“Our position, it is a longstanding bipartisan Australian position which we advocate very clearly is that we support the maintenance of the status quo,” she said.

“We are deeply concerned about the increased activities and the risk of miscalculation, the risk of mistake and that is a view we’ve put publicly and we have put directly to China,” she said.

Giant Pandas' Teddy Bears' Picnic
Mr Li visited a pair of pandas on loan from China to Adelaide Zoo. Credit: Russell Millard /News Corp Australia

In a statement issued after arriving in Adelaide on Saturday, Premier Li said that China-Australia relations were “back on track” after a series of “twists and turns, generating tangible benefits to the people of both countries”.

“History has proven that seeking common ground while shelving differences and mutually beneficial co-operation are the valuable experience in growing China-Australia relations and must be upheld and carried forward,” he said

Premier Li will travel to Canberra for official talks with Prime Minister Albanese on Monday, before flying to Perth for a business roundtable and a visit to a Chinese-owned lithium plant on Tuesday.

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