Australian PM rebels after China issues 14 grievances

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(Bloomberg) – Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said he will not compromise Australia’s national security and sovereignty, as Beijing escalates criticism of its government and warns it not to China an enemy.

“Australia will always be ourselves,” Morrison said in a television interview Thursday with the Nine Network. “We will always make our own laws and rules based on our national interests – and not at the behest of any other nation, be it the United States or China or anyone else.”

A Chinese diplomat in Canberra handed a document to Australian media outlining 14 grievances and accusing the nation of “poisoning bilateral relations”, largely echoing complaints circulated by the Foreign Ministry in Beijing in recent days. A Chinese government official said in a briefing with a reporter that the country is angry and will become an enemy if it becomes the enemy, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

China is exerting increased pressure on Australia through trade sanctions and retaliation as it criticizes a range of Australian policies. While ministerial ties with the U.S. ally have been in a deep freeze since April, when Morrison’s government called on independent investigators to enter Wuhan to probe the origins of the coronavirus, the prime minister’s visit to Japan’s strategic partner this week to sign a new defense pact has exacerbated tensions.

Morrison, who on Thursday said he saw the “unofficial document that came out of the Chinese Embassy,” added in the television interview that Australia’s values, democracy and sovereignty “are not inherent in nature. commercial ”. His government called the Chinese trade reprisals launched this year “economic coercion.”

“We will not compromise on whether we define our foreign investment laws, how we build our 5G telecommunications networks, or how we manage our systems to protect them and protect them from interference,” said Morrison said.

Morrison visited his counterpart Yoshihide Suga in Toyko in his attempt to build a coalition of “like-minded” democracies that push back Beijing’s growing influence in the Asia-Pacific region.

In addition to agreeing to a legal framework that will allow each nation’s military to remain in the other’s country to conduct joint exercises, Morrison and Suga issued a joint statement with criticisms of Chinese policy, including their “strong opposition to any coercive or unilateral constraint. attempts to change the status quo and thereby increase tensions in the region. “

Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a daily Beijing briefing Wednesday that “the Chinese side is strongly unhappy and strongly opposed to their press release in which they accuse China of the issue of the South China Sea and the East China Sea ”. The two countries “have obviously interfered in the affairs of Hong Kong and the internal affairs of China,” he said.

On Tuesday, Zhao gave reporters in Beijing a detailed explanation of the deterioration of ties, including Australia getting involved in internal affairs in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan, accusing him of espionage, calling for l ‘investigation from Wuhan and dismissing’ Chinese companies seeking to invest in Australia under the pretext of national security. “

Ties between major trading partners have been strained since 2018, when Canberra banned Huawei Technologies Co. from building its 5G network and from introducing anti-foreign interference laws aimed at ending Beijing’s interference in business. interior.

“We stand up with other countries, whether it’s on human rights issues or on things that are happening in the world, including in China,” Morrison said. “Now if this is the source of tension between Australia and China, well, I can assure you that Australia will continue to be ourselves, we will continue to act in our own national interests and pursue partnerships like the one “with Japan, which” would only strengthen stability and peace in the Indo-Pacific. “

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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