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12 August 2022: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

12 Aug 2022
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Wong addresses ASEAN-Australia Ministerial Meeting; Wong meets with Blinken and Yoshimasa in Phnom Penh; statement on Chinese missiles launched around Taiwan’s coastline; Farrell visits the US; Marles hosts ROK counterpart in Canberra; Conroy visits Solomon Islands; and more.

On 5 August, Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong addressed the ASEAN-Australia Ministerial Meeting on 4 August in Phnom Penh, where she introduced herself as “the first Australian Foreign Minister who is from Southeast Asia.” She further stated that “we share a region, we share a future, and we share today’s challenges … includ[ing] the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic [;] the urgent need to combat the climate crisis and support the transition to net zero [;] the challenge of ensuring that we can continue to live in a region that is stable, prosperous and respectful of sovereignty [;] and how we address the consequences of Russia’s illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine, which has caused deep food security challenges in our region.” Wong also addressed “developments in Myanmar” expressing “Australia’s deep distress at the appalling execution of four pro-democracy protestors in Myanmar”, and called for the release of Australia Professor Sean Turnell. She noted that “what happens in Myanmar doesn’t just matter to the people of Myanmar. It matters to ASEAN. It matters to the world. We will always work constructively with you to address these challenges and others.” Wong reflected on Australia’s Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with ASEAN as “a source of great pride to Australia” and that Australia “wants to look for more opportunities to advance [it]”. She concluded by stating that Australia “believe[s] that all countries that seek to work with the region have a responsibility to engage constructively with, and through, ASEAN.”

Wong met with her United States and Japanese counterparts, Anthony Blinken and Hayashi Yoshimasa, in Phnom Penh on the margins of the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. In a joint statement, the Secretary and the Foreign Ministers “expressed their commitment to deepening the trilateral partnership among Australia, Japan, and the United States to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific region.” They also “reaffirmed their resolve in supporting ASEAN centrality, and the importance of the Pacific Islands Countries as partners in the region.” Moreover, Secretary and the Foreign Ministers “reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” and stated that they “share the region’s desire for diplomacy to avoid the risks of miscalculation.” They also “condemned the PRC’s launch of ballistic missiles” and “urged the PRC to immediately cease the military exercises.”

Wong also issued her own media release on 5 August on the launch of ballistic missiles by China into waters around Taiwan’s coastline, labelling the exercised as “disproportionate and destabilising.” She described the launches as “a serious matter for the region, including for our close strategic partner, Japan”, and that “Australia shares the region’s concerns about this escalating military activity, especially the risks of miscalculation.” Wong stated that “it is in all our interests to have a region at peace and not in conflict” and that “Australia does not want to see any unilateral change to the status quo across the Taiwan Strait. There is no change to Australia’s bipartisan one-China policy.” She noted that she expressed Australia’s concerns to her Chinese counterpart “along with other regional foreign ministers” while attending the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, and that officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have also reiterated these concerns to the Chinese Government.

On 9 August, Wong and Minister for Agriculture Murray Watt announced a new $10 million biosecurity cooperation package to assist Indonesia with its outbreaks of both food and mouth disease (FMD) and lumpy skin disease (LSD). The Ministers also noted that Australia “will deliver personal protective equipment and disinfectants, train staff on the ground, and [will] provide biosecurity expertise to tackle these outbreaks.” The package further includes $4 million for the purchase of FMD and LSD vaccines, on top of earlier support to provide 1.5 million doses of vaccines. Wong noted that “Indonesia is one of our closest neighbours and partners in the region and the Australian Government wants to offer whatever help we can at this time.” She further stated that “safeguarding the biosecurity of our region is a shared concern and this package will build on our longstanding health cooperation including through the Australia Indonesia Health Security Partnership.”

Wong issued a joint statement with her Latvian counterpart, Edgars Rinkēvičs, on 9 August, after the two met in Canberra for the opening of Latvia’s first Australian Embassy the day before. The Ministers “emphasises the historic moment in the bilateral relationship and the deepening engagement offered” by the Embassy’s opening. They also noted their strong people-to-people links, and “firmly committed to uphold human rights, the rule of law, and the rules-based international order.” Moreover, the Ministers condemned Russia’s “illegal, unprovoked and brutal war against Ukraine and its people that has serious implications for international security and stability.”

Minister for Trade Don Farrell travelled to the United States on 7 August. He attended the opening of the Australia Marketplace North America in Los Angeles on 8 August, where he “promote[d] Australia as a tourism destination and discuss[ed] opportunities and challenges for the industry.” He also met with “business leaders from space, climate technology and entertainment companies, and promote[d] Australian premium food and wine to US importers, wholesalers, and retailers.” Farrell will meet with “ministerial counterparts and other members of the Biden Administration responsible for economic policy, as well as representatives of US unions and business” in Washington. During these discussions, he will “explore areas of common interest, including improving conditions for workers, making climate a pillar of our Alliance, building resilient supply chains, strengthening the rules of digital trade, and combatting economic coercion and non-market practices.” Farrell will also discuss “furthering our shared vision of a resilient and inclusive Indo-Pacific, and the implementation of the Indo Pacific Economic Framework.” Farrell will then travel to New York to meet with the American Australian Association and “members of the investment community”.

On 4 August, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles hosted the Republic of Korea’s (ROK) Minister for National Defense, Lee Jong-sup, at Parliament House in Canberra. During their meeting, Ministers “reaffirmed the importance of the Australia-ROK defence relationship, which is a key pillar of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership announced in December 2021.” Marles noted that the meeting built on their “productive discussions at the Shangri-La Dialogue in June this year.” He further stated that “the security of Australia and the ROK is tied to the openness, inclusiveness and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region and an enduring rules-based international order.” The Ministers also discussed their commitment to deepening the bilateral defence relationship, and Marles noted that “the ROK is an important partner for Australia, particularly in the areas of military training and exercises, science and technology and defence materiel.” In his statement, Marles also noted that Australia “continues to support the ROK to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, including through an ongoing commitment to the United Nations Command in its role enforcing the Armistice Agreement” and that Australia “remains committed to strictly enforcing UN Security Council sanctions and our own autonomous sanctions against North Korea.”

Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy visited Solomon Islands from 6 August “to represent Australia at events to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal and the 80thanniversary of the sinking of HMAS Canberra.” Conroy was joined by Australia’s Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Mark Hammond. In a statement, Conroy noted that “representatives from the Governments of the United States, Japan and New Zealand will also participate in commemorative events.” He further stated that “Australia is Solomon Islands’ largest development partner, supporting all areas of society and the economy” and that Australia “values [its] position as Solomon Islands[’] first security and development partner of choice.” Conroy addressed Solomon Scouts and Coastwatchers Commemorative Service on 7 August, where he reflected on the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal and discussed Australia’s focus on “building up the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force’s own explosive ordnance disposal capability and supporting Solomon Islands’ status as a regional explosive ordnance disposal leader.” He stated that “this is ultimately about supporting the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force to ensure the safety of Solomon Islands people, the safety of people whose ancestors were caught in the crossfire of a global conflict and yet still chose to risk their lives to save so many Allied personnel.”

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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