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10 June: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

10 Jun 2022
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Albanese travels to Jakarta for the Annual Leaders’ Meeting with Widodo; Ardern to visit Sydney and meet with Albanese; Wong visits Samoa and Tonga; and Wong issues a statement on North Korean ballistic missile testing.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, alongside Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong, and Minister for Trade Don Farrell, travelled to Indonesia for the Annual Leaders’ Meeting in Jakarta from 5-7 June. The Ministers will also be joined “by a high-level delegation of Australian business leaders.” Albanese stated that “Indonesia is one of our closest neighbours, which is why I committed to visiting as soon as possible.” Wong further noted that “[t]he Australian Government is serious about our engagement in Southeast Asia, and this visit demonstrates the importance we place on our partnership with Indonesia.”

On 6 June, Albanese and his Indonesian counterpart, Joko Widodo, issued a joint statement following the Annual Leaders’ Meeting. The leaders “affirmed their commitment to addressing the nations’ shared challenges and to deepening coordination” through the bilateral Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. They “addressed the urgent challenge of climate change” and new opportunities for collaboration in the space. Moreover, they committed to “deepening their bilateral economic relationship” through the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership. The leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to ASEAN, outlined a shared path for economic recovery from COVID-19, and commented on the situation in Afghanistan and conflict in Ukraine.

At the Annual Leaders’ Meeting on 6 June, Albanese noted in his opening remarks that he has “great ambition for our relationship”, including “to strengthen our economic ties, [and] to strengthen people-to-people relations through education and exchange of people.” Albanese further stated that “on issues of climate change and energy, my Government has a different position from our former government. We recognise the need to transition and support clean energy not just in our own country, but globally.”

Reflecting on the Leaders’ Meeting, Albanese said that “Australia’s relationship with Indonesia is one of our most important. We’re linked not just by geography, but we are linked by choice.” He also affirmed that he “informed President Widodo that [he] will attend the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Bali in November … because the work of the G20 is critical at this time of global economic uncertainty, and it will be by working with Indonesia that we most effectively tackle the many challenges we face in navigating the post-COVID global economic recovery.” Albanese announced that Australia will provide ten scholarships for Indonesians to complete Masters or PhDs in Australia, in fields that “match Indonesia’s G20 priorities” of “global health architecture, sustainable energy transition and digital transformation.” Moreover, Albanese noted that his Government will establish an Office of Southeast Asia within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade “to ensure whole-of-government coordination of Australian efforts in the region.”

Albanese noted that New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will visit Sydney from 9-10 June, and that Ardern will be the first foreign leader he meets with in Australia following the election. He noted that “the Australia-New Zealand relationship is unique in its closeness” and that the two nations “share a relationship of family”. Albanese referred to the visit as “an opportunity to build on Trans-Tasman cooperation, including economic recovery after COVID-19, the role of Indigenous peoples in the identity of both countries, climate change, support for the Pacific, and global trade and security.”

Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong visited Samoa on 2 June and met with Samoan Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa. Wong and Mata’afa participated in a joint press conference, where Wong stated that “a new Australian Government has been formed. We want to put more energy and more resources into the Pacific. We have made a commitment to engage more closely and to listen respectfully.” Wong also announced that Australia will provide a replacement Guardian-class boat to Samoa to replace the Nafanua II in 2023, and that Australia “understand[s] how important these maritime assets are to island nations.”

On 3 June, Wong visited Tonga and held a joint press conference with Tongan Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni. She noted that the new Australian Government was “elected with a very clear position that we would put in more energy and more resources … to our relationship with the Pacific.” Wong further stated that “the experience of your country and the experience of Pacific Island nations, the real, present national security, economic and existential risk and threat … is the climate change that you are experiencing … [W]e have heard that, and we will work with you.”

Wong issued a media release on 8 June condemning North Korea’s eight ballistic missile tests in the past week, and noted that the launches “violate multiple [United Nations] Security Council resolutions and undermine the global non-proliferation regime.” She urged the United Nations Security Council “to respond decisively to North Korea’s continued violation of its legally binding resolutions” and called on Pyongyang “to abandon its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs and return to meaningful dialogue with the United States and the Republic of Korea.” Wong further stated that “[p]ermanent peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula can only be achieved through dialogue” and that “[e]ffective sanctions enforcement requires a global effort.”

Isabella Keith is a weekly columnist for Australian Outlook. She is also an undergraduate student at the Australian National University studying Law and Politics, Philosophy and Economics. Isabella’s research interests include international law and comparative constitutional law.

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