Australia remains determined to maintain the “status quo” vis-à-vis China but will defend its national interests and values, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has said.
China has launched nearly a dozen ballistic missiles in live-fire exercises near Taiwan following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s controversial visit to the island earlier this week.
State-controlled media has also warned the United States that it will bear the brunt of “full consequences” due to the ongoing visit.
Mr Albanese would not be drawn to comments on Ms Pelosi’s visit, but said his government wanted regional peace and security amid ongoing tensions.
“Australia said we don’t want any change to the status quo, that’s the position of the United States as well,” he told ABC radio on Friday.
“I am not commenting on the decisions on which the American speaker made the decision to go there.
“It’s really a question for them.”
Prime Minister urged caution after Chinese military exercises.
“We must maintain the course we are on, which is to seek positive cooperation and relations with China where we can, but uphold Australian values and Australian national interests where we must,” said Mr. Albanian.
“This includes the issue of the law … allowing safe navigation and passage, including through the South China Sea.”
Foreign Secretary Penny Wong has warned that Beijing’s actions could lead to an accidental conflict.
Liberal Senator James Paterson also called for calm, while condemning China’s response to the trip.
“I would encourage the government to consider as we have done in the past, calling on China to exercise restraint and avoid actions that could lead to miscalculations or accidents,” he said. he told ABC radio.
“The military exercises around Taiwan today are very risky and could very easily cause unintended damage and China really needs to back out of these actions.”
Senator Paterson, who visited the island, said it was in line with the “One China” policy backed by Australia and the United States.
“It’s a totally disproportionate response to fire ballistic missiles into your neighbors’ territorial waters in response to a congressional delegation,” he said.
“It is completely normal for members of the US Congress, including the Speaker of the House, to visit Taiwan.”
US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will travel to Canberra on Monday for talks with Senator Wong and officials.
Ms Sherman will also travel to Samoa, Tonga, the Solomon Islands and New Zealand over the next week as the United States turns its diplomatic attention to the region.