foreign minister downplays China air defense zone tension in visit
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[December 07, 2013]
By Michael Martina
BEIJING (Reuters) — Australian Foreign
Minister Julie Bishop downplayed tensions over China's controversial air
defense zone, which has also rankled the United States, Japan and South
Korea, after meeting her Chinese counterpart on Saturday.
"Australia is concerned that there be peace and stability in our
region and we don't want to see any escalation of the tensions,"
Bishop told reporters following four hours of talks with Chinese
Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
"We want to see a de-escalation of tensions. It is in our interests,
and indeed in the interests of a number of countries in our region,
that there be peace and stability in the East China Sea, the South
China Sea, and the region more generally."
Bishop said discussion of the ADIZ only took up a "small proportion"
of time in talks with Chinese leaders.
Most time was spent in talks on economic matters as opposed to
political or cultural issues, though discussions also touched upon
human rights, North Korea, Syria and Iran, she said.
But the strain between the two officials showed in Wang's terse
comments on Friday.
"Australia's words and actions on the issue of China's air defense
zone have damaged the mutual trust between the two sides," state
news organization Xinhua reported Wang as saying.
Tensions with China escalated after Bishop described Beijing's move
last month to impose a new airspace defense zone over disputed
islands the East China Sea as "unhelpful" and summoned China's
ambassador to explain.
China's Foreign Ministry rejected her remarks as "irresponsible" and
Bishop has denied the spat would damage new Australian Prime
Minister Tony Abbott's stated aim of concluding stalled talks over a
free trade agreement with China within the year.
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Australia relies on China and other Asian nations to buy the bulk of
its exports, particularly minerals and farm goods.
But a strengthening of ties with both the United States and Japan —
which Abbott recently described as Australia's best friend in Asia —
has put Australia in a difficult position as the strategic rivalry
between China and the United States grows.
China has also expressed concern at reports in Australian media that
Australian embassies, including the Beijing embassy, were being used
as part of a U.S.-led spying operation.
Another thorn in the relationship has been Australia's new
government upholding a ban on China's Huawei Technologies Co Ltd
from bidding for work on the country's $38 billion National
And this week, Australian media said the government was
investigating a suspected espionage case at the country's top
scientific organization, with a Chinese national being probed for
allegedly accessing sensitive data.
(Reporting by Michael Martina; writing by Ben Blanchard and Paul Carsten;
editing by Ron Popeski)
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