Albanese, Li to boost defence dialogue


New era: Albanese (right) shaking hands with Li during a signing ceremony at Parliament House in Canberra. — AFP

Australia and China will take steps to improve military communication to avoid incidents, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said after meeting Premier Li Qiang, in the first visit to the country by a Chinese premier in seven years.

The visit by Li, China’s top-ranked official after President Xi Jinping, marks a stabilisation in relations between the US security ally and the world’s second-biggest economy, after a frosty period of Beijing blocking US$20bil (RM94.3bil) in Australian exports and friction over defence encounters.

“One of the very practical measures that we spoke about was improving military to military communication so as to avoid incidents,” Albanese told reporters yesterday in Canberra after the meeting, which Defence Minister Richard Marles also attended.

In an incident last month, a Chinese airforce jet dropped flares near an Australian defence helicopter in international airspace over the Yellow Sea, which Australia said was a dangerous encounter.

It was the second defence incident in six months to mar growing rapprochement between the two countries after years of strained relations.

Albanese told reporters he had “raised our issues in the Pacific”, a reference to Canberra’s concern over Beijing’s growing security ambitions in nearby Pacific Islands, as well as human rights and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He had also raised the case of China-born Australian writer Yang Hengjun, who was sentenced to a suspended death sentence by a Beijing court, he said.

Beginning with some panda and wine diplomacy on Sunday, Li is on a four-day visit.

The two leaders travelled separately to the mining state of Western Australia yesterday evening, where they will hold roundtable talks today with business leaders.

“This dialogue has allowed us to build a deeper awareness of our respective interests,” Albanese said earlier, noting Australia and China had complementary economies and shared interests in addressing climate change.After the meeting, Li told reporters the leaders held a “candid, in-depth and fruitful meeting and reached a lot of consensus”.

The two countries would expand cooperation in energy and mining, and China would include Australia in its visa waiver programme, he added.

“We both stressed the importance of maintaining communication and coordination to jointly safeguard peace and prosperity in the region and beyond,” he said. — Reuters

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