Australian PM Albanese won’t respond to Beijing’s ‘demands’ after ministerial meeting

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Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has ruled out complying with a list of demands from the Chinese government to improve relations between the two countries, complicating attempts to repair diplomatic ties between Canberra and Beijing.

Speaking at a press conference in Canberra on Monday, Albanese said Australia “doesn’t respond to demands” when asked about a statement by China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who has listed four “actions by which Australia could improve its relationship with Beijing.”

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Among those were the need for Australia to view China as a “partner rather than a rival,” seeking common ground “while reserving differences” and not “being controlled by any third party.”

Wang made his statement after he met with Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong on Friday, the first such meeting between the two nations’ top diplomats since 2019.

On Monday, Albanese said Australia would “respond to our own national interest.”

“We will cooperate with China where we can. I want to build good relations with all countries. But we will stand up for Australia’s interests when we must,” he said.

Australia has been attempting to repair damaged diplomatic relations with its largest trading partner since Albanese’s center-left Labor Party won a national election in May. However, both sides still largely blame the other for the original fallout, with Wang saying the “root cause of the difficulties was the previous government under Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

After Morrison’s government called for an international investigation into COVID-19 in April 2020, Beijing imposed trade sanctions on a large number of Australian exports including wine, barley and coal.

The foreign and defense ministers for both countries have met in the past month to reforge diplomatic ties. However, Albanese said any further warming in relations will require the trade sanctions on Australian exports to be lifted.

To date, China has shown no interest in removing the punitive measures, turning down an opportunity to meet with Australia’s Trade Minister Don Farrell in Geneva in June.

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