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Penny Wong holds ‘frank’ talks with top Chinese diplomat

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong is at the ASEAN Post Ministerial conference in Indonesia.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong is at the ASEAN Post Ministerial conference in Indonesia. Photo: AAP

Penny Wong has held talks with top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi for the second time in a year, at a meeting for South-East Asia’s foreign ministers.

The Foreign Minister, who is in Jakarta for the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, confirmed her meeting with Mr Wang, who is representing China.

Senator Wong met China’s highest-ranking diplomat in Beijing late last year, becoming the first Australian minister to visit the country in three years.

“We had a constructive discussion about the bilateral relationship and the value of ongoing dialogue,” she said.

“I reiterated Australia’s position on a range of issues, including trade impediments, consular cases, human rights and Hong Kong.”

Senator Wong said: “Australia will continue to work with China to grow the bilateral relationship, navigate differences and engage in the national interest”.

Before the meeting, Senator Wong was asked if she would raise a policing pact signed between China and the Solomon Islands. She said Australia maintained the view shared by its regional neighbours, that security should be provided by Pacific nations.

“We are continuing to call for transparency from China and Solomon Islands in relation to this agreement,” she told the ABC’s 7.30 on Thursday.

“I think it is of benefit for the Pacific Islands Forum to discuss it.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare jointly announced a comprehensive strategic partnership in Beijing earlier this week.

Beijing has been expanding its influence in the region, with Chinese police present in the Solomon Islands since late 2021.

On Friday, Senator Wong said the two had “discussed the importance of the institutions, rules and norms that underpin sovereignty, security and prosperity in the region”.

She added: “I conveyed Australia’s clear views on security in the Pacific and Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.”

NATO expansion

Separately, Senator Wong has not openly supported the idea of NATO expanding its presence in the Asian region.

The military alliance proposed opening a liaison office in Japan’s capital Tokyo, in a bid to deepen cooperation with partners in the region.

But the proposal was strongly opposed by China.

Asked on 7.30 if Australia backed NATO’s expansion, Senator Wong said the government maintained “ASEAN as the centre of the region”.

“ASEAN centrality within the Indo-Pacific is so critical to peace and prosperity and stability,” she told 7.30‘s Sarah Ferguson.

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