Australia remains committed to maintaining the “status quo” towards China, but will defend its national interests and values, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has declared.
China launched almost a dozen ballistic missiles during live fire exercises near Taiwan following the controversial visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the island earlier this week.
State-controlled media also warned the US it would bear the brunt of “all the consequences” due to the visit taking place.
Mr Albanese would not be drawn on commenting on Ms Pelosi’s visit, but said his government wanted regional peace and security amid soaring tensions.
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“Australia has said that we want no change to the status quo, that’s also the position of the United States,” he told ABC radio on Friday.
“I make no comment about decisions about which the US speaker has made the decision to visit there.
“That really is a matter for them.”
The prime minister urged caution following China’s military drills.
“We need to stay the course that we’re on, which is to seek cooperation and positive relations with China where we can, but stand up for Australian values and Australian national interests where we must,” Mr Albanese said.
“That includes the issue of law … allowing for safe navigation and passage including through the South China Sea.”
Foreign Minister Penny Wong has condemned Beijing’s “disproportionate and destabilising” actions, saying she had expressed her concern to her Chinese counterpart at the East Asia Summit in Cambodia on Friday.
“Australia is deeply concerned about the launch of ballistic missiles by China into waters around Taiwan’s coastline,” she said in a statement.
“Australia shares the region’s concerns about this escalating military activity, especially the risks of miscalculation.
“We urge restraint and de-escalation.
“It is in all our interests to have a region at peace and not in conflict. Australia does not want to see any unilateral change to the status quo across the Taiwan Strait.”
Liberal senator James Paterson also called for calm, while condemning China’s response to the trip.
“I would encourage the government to consider as we have done in the past, calling on China to exercise restraint and to avoid actions which could lead to miscalculation or accidents,” he told ABC radio.
“The military drills that are taking place around Taiwan today are highly risky and could very easily unintentionally cause harm and China really needs to step back from those actions.”
Senator Paterson, who has visited the island, said it was consistent with the “one China” policy upheld by Australia and the US.
“It is a grossly disproportionate response to fire ballistic missiles into the territorial waters of your neighbours in response to a congressional delegation,” he said.
“It is entirely routine for members of the US Congress, including the Speaker of the House, to visit Taiwan.”
US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman will visit Canberra on Monday for talks with Senator Wong and officials.
Ms Sherman will also visit Samoa, Tonga, the Solomon Islands and New Zealand over the next week as the US turns its diplomatic focus to the region.