Defiant Morrison lashes China ‘nonsense’ over Japan visit

Trade disputes: Australia and China

Trade disputes: Australia and China Photo: Getty

Australia is refusing to apologise to China after being accused of poisoning bilateral relations in an incendiary diplomatic briefing.

Chinese officials have outlined a long list of grievances and demanded Australia take action to stem worsening relations between the two countries.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison dismissed criticism that Australia acted at the behest of the US in crafting foreign policy.

“That’s a nonsense,” he told the Seven Network on Thursday.

“Australia is a sovereign country. We make our own decisions according with the national interests.”

Mr Morrison said the Chinese embassy’s unofficial document took issue with Australia for speaking up on human rights abuses, and criticised politicians and media for speaking freely about China.

“If this is the cause for tension in that relationship, it would seem the tension is that Australia is being Australia,” he said.

“I can assure you, we will always be Australia, act in our interests and in accordance with our values.”

Mr Morrison returned on Wednesday from Japan, where he signed a historic defence pact that had been in the works for six years.

After the deal was inked, the Chinese embassy reacted by deliberately leaking the grievance list and briefing media about the relationship.

“China is angry. If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy,” an official told Nine News.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian has made it clear officials in Beijing will offer few compromises to resolve disputes.

He said Australia was responsible for the deterioration in ties, saying “whoever started the trouble should end it”.

“I want to stress that the Australian side is completely aware of the crux of the decline of the bilateral relations,” Mr Zhao told reporters in China.

“We hope the Australian side should do more to improve the mutual trust and co-operation and enhance the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries.”

Australia’s foreign investment rules, banning Huawei from Australia’s 5G network and the push for an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus are among China’s grievances.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham is also standing firm.

“We make no apologies for Australia having foreign investment laws that act in Australia’s national interest, for protecting communications networks,” he told the ABC on Thursday.

“But on all of these things we do it in a non-discriminatory way.”

The minister said he would not respond to “nameless allegations being made by alleged officials”.

“What I will do is re-enforce that from the Australian perspective, we value the bilateral relationship, we seek to have a mutually beneficial one in the areas of mutual interest,” Senator Birmingham said.

“We are willing to have dialogue with our counterparts from China.”

China has launched trade strikes against Australia, with barley, wine and coal all affected amid a deepening diplomatic row.


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