Australian, Chinese foreign ministers to meet for first time in three years

Foreign ministers of the Pacific Islands Forum are due to meet in Fiji on Friday

Australian, Chinese foreign ministers to meet for first time in three years

SYDNEY, July 7 (Reuters) - Beijing announced on Thursday that the foreign ministers of China and Australia will meet for the first time in three years, signalling a warming of ties that had been strained by allegations of foreign meddling and retaliatory trade restrictions. Australia is one of the bilateral meetings that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will attend on the side-lines of the G20 summit in Bali, according to Zhao Lijian, a spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry, who spoke at a briefing in Beijing.


The new government in Canberra is "ready to engage," according to Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong, who previously told reporters in Bali that the country wants China to withdraw its economic sanctions against it. She added on Thursday that for the relationship to stabilize, "we feel it would be in China and Australia's interest, and that would require both parties to take a step." Days before a summit of Pacific island leaders in Fiji, where 18 countries will discuss China's effort to deepen its security ties in the South Pacific and which Australia opposes Australia and China met in Bali. China won't be present, but Australia, a member of the Pacific Islands Forum, will. The majority of the Pacific islands with whom China maintains diplomatic connections have requested to meet in a different setting.


The greatest iron ore consumer and commercial partner of Australia in China, but recent years have seen deterioration in the relationship. In reaction to actions and decisions including Australia's call for a probe into the origins of COVID-19 and its 5G network ban on Huawei, China placed trade sanctions on Australian items ranging from coal to seafood and wine. The deterioration of the diplomatic ties began during the clamorous Australian domestic political debate over the foreign interference legislation, which resulted in the resignation of a Labor Senator for accepting donations from a Chinese businessman who was later denied entry to Australia by intelligence agencies.


Ken McCallum, director-general of MI5, referenced the incident in a speech he gave on Wednesday regarding Chinese intelligence activity. Following a meeting between the military ministers on the margins of a security conference, China's ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, stated in a recent address in Sydney that there was a chance to strengthen ties if the new government in Canberra took action. The Albanese government, which was elected in May, has stated that there won't be any changes to the country's foreign policy, but Wong said on Wednesday that the new administration would deal with "challenges in the relationship" with China with composure and discipline. She demanded the release of two Australian journalists who are being held in China while they await the outcome of cases involving national security.



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