Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he would not compromise national security and sovereignty, as Beijing ramped up its criticism of his government and warned it against making China an enemy.
“Australia will always be ourselves,” Morrison said in a television interview yesterday with the Nine Network. “We will always set our own laws and our own rules according to our national interests — not at the behest of any other nation, whether that’s the US or China or anyone else.”
A Chinese diplomat in Canberra gave a document to Australian media outlets outlining 14 grievances and accusing Canberra of “poisoning bilateral relations,” largely echoing complaints aired by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing in the past few days.
A Chinese official said in a briefing with a reporter that China was angry, and would become an enemy if it was made the enemy, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
China is placing increased pressure on Australia through trade sanctions and reprisals as it criticizes a raft of Australian policies.
While ministerial ties with the US ally have been in a deep freeze since April, when Morrison’s government called for independent investigators to enter Wuhan, China, to probe the origins of COVID-19, Morrison’s visit to strategic partner Japan this week to sign a new defense pact has exacerbated tensions.
Morrison, who yesterday said he had seen the “unofficial document that’s come out of the Chinese embassy,” added in the TV interview that Australia’s values, democracy and sovereignty “are not up for trade.”
His government has labeled Chinese trade reprisals launched this year as “economic coercion.”
“We won’t be compromising on the fact that we’ll set what our foreign investment laws are, or how we build our 5G telecommunications networks, or how we run our systems [of] protecting against any interference,” he said.
Morrison visited Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in Toyko in his bid to build a coalition of “like-minded” democracies pushing back against Beijing’s increasing influence in the Asia-Pacific region.
As well as agreeing to a legal framework that would allow the military of each nation to stay in the other’s country to conduct joint exercises, Morrison and Suga issued a joint statement with criticisms of Chinese policies, including their “strong opposition to any coercive or unilateral attempts to change the status quo and thereby increase tensions in the region.”
Chinese ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) told a daily briefing in Beijing on Wednesday that the “Chinese side is strongly dissatisfied and firmly opposed to their press statement in which they accused China on the South China Sea and East China Sea issue.”
The two nations “blatantly interfered in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs,” he said.
“We stand up with other countries, whether it be on human rights issues or things that are happening around the world, including in China,” Morrison said.
“Now if that is the source of tensions between Australia and China, well I can assure you that Australia will continue to be ourselves, we’ll continue to act in our own national interests, and pursue partnerships like the one” with Japan, which would “only strengthen stability and peace in the Indo-Pacific,” he said.
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