Marles seeks to cool tensions with Beijing following ‘frank’ discussions with Chinese defence minister

URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL

Australia needs “the most productive relationship” with China, said Defense Minister Richard Marles a day after his first face-to-face meeting with his Chinese counterpart, striking a cooperative tone.

Speaking at a security summit in Singapore on Sunday, Mr Marles signalled that the Albanian government was making further efforts to stabilise its relations with China despite rising tensions between the two countries.

“After raising a number of issues with them, we wanted to continue to work with the Chinese on the issue and follow up on the progress of our defense dialogue,” Marles said at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual meeting of security and defense officials hosted by the London-based think tank International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“In this way we can understand each other’s behavior as well as possible.”

The appearance was followed by a 45-minute meeting between Mr Marles and Chinese Defense Minister Admiral Dong Jun, who was appointed to the post in December.

Mr Marles described the meeting as a “very frank conversation” and said he had directly addressed the People’s Liberation Army’s “unsafe and unprofessional” tactics towards the Australian Navy, the first time the issue had been raised at ministerial level.

In November, Australian Navy divers were injured by sonar pulses from a Chinese warship. Earlier this year, personnel on board an Australian Navy helicopter were put in danger when a Chinese fighter jet fired flares nearby. However, no one was injured in the incident.

“Of course, we have experienced some unsafe incidents – incidents that were both unsafe and unprofessional … I have, of course, discussed them with Minister Jun,” Mr Marles said.

China had previously disputed Australia’s account of the incidents and blamed Australia for the clashes.

Marles rejected Coalition criticism that Labor should have contacted the Chinese leadership earlier, saying: “When the Liberals were in power, there was no telephone.”

“They were absolutely unable to communicate with China about anything, even when it came to conveying a difficult message,” he said.

“The fact that we now have a relationship not only allows us to work together, but also to talk about difficult things in a respectful way.”

The pair reiterated their commitment to keeping direct lines of communication open between their two armed forces as part of broader efforts to maintain the recent rapprochement between Australia and China.

“Such a dialogue enables us to gain a much better understanding of our work and ensures significantly greater safety for the men and women who wear a uniform,” said Marles.

“One of the things we need to do in our relationship with China … is to speak clearly and make sure we disagree when we need to.”

Another sign of the cooling of tensions between Canberra and Beijing is the visit of Chinese Prime Minister Li Qiang to Australia in two weeks.

Read related topics:China

Leave a Comment