Julie Bishop denies US interference
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop says Australia's criticism of China's air defence announcement was not prompted by the United States.PT1M27S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2ybtz 620 349 November 28, 2013
Tony Abbott has refused to take a backward step in a deepening diplomatic spat with Beijing, declaring "China trades with us because it is in China's interest to trade with us".
The unapologetic comments came after Beijing issued a stern warning to Canberra to "correct" its public statements which were seen as siding with Japan over disputed territory in the East China Sea.
"China trades with us because it is in China's interest to trade with us": Tony Abbott. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
An escalating series of diplomatic gestures by both sides have strained relations this week after Australia called in China's ambassador on Monday.
Canberra demanded an explanation from China for its unilateral decision to declare an expanded air defence zone over disputed waters and islands claimed by both Japan and China.
Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop defended the government's position on Thursday, arguing Australia has a key stake in the region and therefore opposes "action by any side that we believe could add to the tensions or add to the risk of a miscalculation in disputed territorial zones in the region".
Later in the day, Mr Abbott went further, stressing strategic ties.
"We are a strong ally of the United States, we are a strong ally of Japan, we have a very strong view that international disputes should be settled peacefully and in accordance with the rule of law and where we think that is not happening, or it is not happening appropriately, we will speak our mind," he said.
Beijing announced the expansion at the weekend, along with the instruction that civil aircraft would be required to lodge flight paths and seek permission before traversing the newly declared air defence identification zone.
The highly provocative act brought an immediate response from the US, which dispatched as many as four military aircraft, including two B52 long range bombers, to fly through the zone as a way of demonstrating that the Chinese annexure would be ignored.
With Australia's ambassador to Beijing, Frances Adamson, away on leave, China hauled in Justin Hayhurst, the deputy head of mission at Australia's Beijing embassy, to remonstrate.
Beijing also issued a series of statements complaining that Australia had taken sides and that it should act quickly to "correct" its position, if it wanted the relationship with China to remain healthy.
"China points out that it is completely wrong for the Australian side to make irresponsible statements on China's establishment of the East China Sea [air zone]," spokesman Qin Gang said.
"China urges the Australian side to immediately correct its mistakes so as to avoid hurting the co-operative relationship between China and Australia."
The new air defence zone came just days after Ms Bishop signed a joint communique with the US at the annual Australia-US ministerial consultations in Washington opposing “unilateral or coercive change in the status quo” in the East China Sea. It also follows a tri-lateral agreement signed with the US and Japan in Bali last month.
“It's certainly a slap in the face for the diplomatic position that Australia, the US and Japan have been taking on this issue,” Rory Medcalf, the director of the international security program at the Lowy Institute, said.