Date: May 15 2012
BEIJING: China has criticised Australia's close military alliance with the United States as an outdated throwback to the Cold War era in an apparent rebuke of Canberra's decision to allow a US military presence along Australia's north coast.
Underlining how seriously they viewed the decision to allow up to 2500 US Marines to be deployed through Darwin, senior Chinese officials raised their concerns with Senator Bob Carr in three separate meetings in Beijing yesterday, during his first official visit as Foreign Affairs Minister since replacing Kevin Rudd in March.
In a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, the Foreign Minister, Yang Jiechi, Senator Carr said he had explained the historical context of the Australia-US relationship and "why they were effectively a cornerstone of Australian policy". Senator Carr also met Lieutenant-General Wei Fenghe, a senior official of the Chinese military, and the director of the International Department of the Communist Party, Wang Jiarui.
"The most objective way of saying it is my three Chinese partners today invited me to talk about enhanced Australian defence co-operation with the United States," he said of the Chinese response. "I think their view can be expressed that the time for Cold War alliances have long since past.
"Australia's view of course is that an American presence in the Asia-Pacific has helped underpin stability there and created a climate in which the peaceful economic development … including that of China, has been able to occur.''
But in an apparent reflection of China's rising influence as a strategic power in the world, Senator Carr said he would push for closer military co-operation with China.
"An extended underpinning of my conversation with the [People's Liberation Army] was that our defence co-operation has been very good and we would both like to see more of it," he said. "Defence co-operation is a confidence building mission. The more we understand about one another's approach to defence the less likely we are to misinterpret what the other side does."
In a news conference yesterday, Senator Carr also said the three Australians sentenced to lengthy jail terms in China - Stern Hu, Matthew Ng and Charlotte Chou - were in effect considered Chinese nationals by the Chinese government, despite holding Australian passports. The comments raise existing concerns that the Chinese government does not differentiate between Chinese citizens and foreign nationals who are ethnic Chinese.
He said he raised "three consular cases" with Mr Yang and was told that China "does not recognise dual nationality".
Asked whether that meant whether they were considered Chinese nationals rather than Australians, Senator Carr responded: "I guess that's right."
He later clarified that "the Chinese government does not recognise dual nationality but where Chinese citizens have renounced their Chinese nationality and have entered China on Australian passports we can gain access to them under our bilateral consular agreement".
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