Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has expressed Australia’s support for the leaders’ statement coming from the G7 summit against China asserting its disputed claims in the Indo-Pacific region through force and coercion.
“We have said for some time that China’s activity, and we expressed concern for ourselves as well, the chafing of one of our aircraft, the other activities that we’ve seen has provided concern. We’ve expressed concern in the past, we’ll continue to do so,” he told reporters in Japan on Sunday.
“What we need to do is to make sure that we work in a way that enhances the peace, security, and stability in the region.
“We very clearly support the status quo when it comes to the Taiwan Straits and that is Australia’s position—we’ve consistently stated that.”
Albanese said that Australia’s position has been well received at the G7 summit and that its partners had welcomed the fact that Australia was back in dialogue with China.
“As President Biden has said to me on a number of times, in his words, ‘You guys punch above your weight,’” he said.
Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese attends a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden as part of the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Hiroshima, Japan, on May 20, 2023. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)
In a lengthy statement, the G7 leaders said they were prepared to build “constructive and stable” relations with China, while seeking to address the country’s market-distorting economic practices.
“We will counter malign practices, such as illegitimate technology transfer or data disclosure. We will foster resilience to economic coercion,” they said.
The leaders also said they opposed Beijing’s militarisation and maritime claims in the South China Sea, which they said there was “no legal basis” for.
“We remain seriously concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas. We strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion.”
Quad Meeting Squeezed In
The Australian prime minister arrived in Japan for the rescheduled Quad meeting and was also invited to attend the G7 summit outreach meetings.
Albanese was originally going to welcome the leaders of Quad partnership, U.S. President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at the Sydney Opera House on May 24. However, Biden pulled out, needing to return to Washington for debt ceiling negotiations.
Quad leaders instead met on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, to discuss the vision of a peaceful Indo-Pacific region that respects sovereignty, is free from intimidation, and settles disputes in accordance with international law.
“While the Summit couldn’t take place in Sydney as planned, I’m pleased to have convened a Quad meeting with counterparts today to discuss pressing challenges facing the Indo-Pacific region and deepening the Quad’s cooperation,” Albanese said.
“The Quad Leaders coming together in-person sends a strong message about Quad unity and what the group is able to achieve together.”
(L-R) U.S. President Joe Biden, Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi hold a Quad meeting on the sidelines of the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Hiroshima, Japan, on May 20, 2023. (Jonathan Ernst/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
The partnership announced it will strengthen the underwater sea cable networks in the Indo-Pacific.
In collaboration with the island nation of Palau, the Quad will also establish a deployment of Open Radio Access Networks, the first in the Pacific, supporting countries to expand and modernised their telecommunications networks.
The commitment to acting on efforts to mitigate the predicted negative impacts of climate change was reiterated, with an announcement for the development of a coordinated “Climate Information Services Initiative” to share resources for early warning systems across the region—including from the Weather Ready Pacific initiative and Pacific Meteorological Council—and to accelerate the region’s renewable energy transition.
Quad nations will also support health initiatives in the Indo-Pacific through building up the region’s capacity to detect and respond to any potential outbreaks of diseases that could turn endemic or pandemic.
“At a time of fundamental change, challenge, and opportunity in our region, we are determined to make a positive and lasting contribution to the resilience and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific by leveraging our resources and sharing our expertise,” the Quad leaders said in a joint statement.
“The Indo-Pacific’s key challenges of health security, rapidly changing technology, the grave threat of climate change, and the strategic challenges facing the region, summon us to act with renewed purpose.”
The call for a region free from force and coercion by the leaders of both the G7 and Quad alliances come after Beijing confirmed it will resume the importation of Australian timber, effectively immediately.
In 2020, a number of Australian goods were subject to arbitrary trade sanctions by Beijing in response to the Australian Morrison government’s call for an independent inquiry into the origins of COVID-19, and the banning of China-based companies Huawei and ZTE from involvement in Australia’s 5G infrastructure due to security concerns.
China’s ruling communist party (CCP) suspended high level dialogue with Australia for three years, which began to thaw under the Albanese Labor government.
In a rare media appearance, Beijing’s ambassador to Canberra, Xiao Qian, told reporters that the CCP’s decision was based on a “serious study” provided to Beijing by Australia on the quarantine risks of Australian timber that had “satisfied the conditions of the Chinese Customs.”
This follows Trade Minister Don Farrell’s recent two-day trip to Beijing, where he returned to Australia without concessions on Beijing’s trade bans.
The news also comes a month after Canberra agreed to suspend an appeal to the World Trade Organisation over Beijing’s tariffs on Australian barley.
Xiao said other trade disputes—such as those applied to barley, wine, lobster, coal, and cattle—will be dealt with “one by one.” He expressed hope that the disputes can be resolved “as soon as possible.”
Henry Jom contributed to this report.