Australia, China show first signs of rapprochement after years of tension

Singapore, Jun 12 (EFE).- The defense ministers of Australia and China met Sunday in Singapore in the first sign of high-level rapprochement after more than two years of diplomatic tension.

Australia’s Richard Marles confirmed that he had a “frank and full exchange” with his counterpart Wei Fenghe at a bilateral meeting held during the Shangri-La Dialogue, the most important defense forum in the Asia-Pacific, Australian national broadcaster ABC reported.

“This was an important meeting between two countries of consequence in the Indo-Pacific meeting,” said Marles, who also serves as deputy prime minister. “It was a critical first step.”

“Australia and China’s relationship is complex and it’s precisely because of this complexity that it is really important that we are engaging in dialogue right now.”

Canberra’s representative specified that, among other matters of concern to Australia, he raised the recent interception by China of an Australian air force plane over the South China Sea, a strategic area where Beijing has competing territorial claims with other countries such as Brunei, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

This is the first high-level meeting since January 2020, ABC points out, when diplomatic relations began to freeze between the two countries as a result of various disagreements, including the exclusion for security reasons of the Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE from participating in Australia’s 5G network.

Since then, relations have deteriorated due to issues such as China’s expanding militarization and the approval in Australia of laws against foreign interference and espionage, after Chinese donations to politicians and cyberattacks on state agencies and universities, attributed to China, were discovered.

China, which was particularly upset by Australia’s request for an independent investigation into the origin of Covid-19, responded by imposing import tariffs on several Australian products.

The tensions between several countries, such as the United States, Canada and Australia, and China have been an undercurrent during the security forum, which started on Friday and ends Sunday, which was also attended by defense chiefs from dozens of countries. EFE sin-nc/tw

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