Politics, Asia - Pacific

China, Australia break diplomatic impasse, hold rare talks

Mid-level diplomats discuss bilateral, regional issues, including China-Solomon Islands security pact, Beijing confirms

Riyaz ul Khaliq   | 09.05.2022
China, Australia break diplomatic impasse, hold rare talks

ISTANBUL

Holding rare diplomatic talks, China and Australia appeared to have broken an impasse in their bilateral relations, Beijing said on Monday.

Lijian Zhao, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, confirmed that Chinese diplomats held a meeting with their Australian counterparts last Friday.

"China expressed its position on the security pact with the Solomon Islands, saying it doesn't seek spheres of influence or engage in coercion, and will advance cooperation with South Pacific Island nations," Lijian told a news conference in Beijing.

The meeting comes amid criticism from Australia and its allies, including the US, New Zealand, and Japan, against Beijing signing a security cooperation pact last month with the Solomon Islands, an archipelagic country in the Pacific Ocean.

Under the deal, China will help the Solomon Islands enhance its security and provide the latest equipment for the police force, enabling them to deal with any future instability.

Relations between Beijing and Canberra nosedived, affecting bilateral trade after Australia joined Western allies in seeking a probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

Canberra is also cementing its bilateral and multilateral relations in the wider Asia-Pacific region to counter China's expanding economic and military influence.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) had said in a statement on Friday that Australian and Chinese officials held bilateral virtual talks on the Pacific region.

"Australian officials raised directly with their Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs counterparts Australia's serious concerns about the Solomon Islands-China security agreement, the lack of transparency and its implications for continuing regional security and stability," it said.

Emphasizing Australia's status as a Pacific nation "with deep, longstanding connections with our Pacific family across all arms of government and right across our society," it said.

The statement added that officials "reinforced Australia's abiding commitment to the security architecture of our region, including the Boe Declaration and Biketawa Declaration and the Treaty of Rarotonga, and the Pacific family remains best placed to meet the security needs of Pacific Island countries comprehensively."

The two sides also discussed climate change adaptation and resilience, COVID-19 response and recovery, fisheries and maritime issues, and infrastructure development across the region.

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