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12 February: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

12 Feb 2021
By Isabella Keith
Parliament House At Dusk, Canberra ACT Source: Thennicke

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Payne’s update on Cheng Lei, the ICC’s Palestine decision, the arrival of US Marines in Darwin, and more.

On 8 February, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne noted that the Australian Government was advised that Ms Cheng Lei was formally arrested in China on 5 February, after 6 months of detention. Payne stated that Chinese authorities advised she was “arrested on suspicion of illegally supplying state secrets overseas.” She also said that the Australian Government “has raised its serious concerns about Ms Cheng’s detention regularly at senior levels, including about her welfare and conditions of detention.”

Payne also issued a statement about the International Criminal Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber ruling that it has jurisdiction in relation to the ‘Situation in Palestine’ on 6 February. She stated that “Australia does not recognise a ‘State of Palestine’, noting that matters relating to territory and borders can only be resolved through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.” Payne noted that this view had been “made clear” in observations submitted to the Pre-Trial Chamber, and also stated that “the International Criminal Court should not exercise jurisdiction in this matter.”

On 6 February, Payne noted the Australian Government’s “deep concern” about reports of Australian and other foreign nationals being “detained arbitrarily in Myanmar … in particular … about an Australian who has been detained at a police station.”

Payne welcomed the extension of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the United States and Russia for an additional five years on 4 February, noting that the decision “will bolster strategic stability, and confidence in the nuclear arms control regime.”

On 6 February, Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds announced that United States Marines from the tenth Marine Rotational Force will soon begin to arrive in Darwin to “conduct a comprehensive range of training activities” with the Australian Defence Force.

Minister for Trade Dan Tehan and Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud released a joint statement on 5 February, announcing that Australia’s biggest grains exporter, CBH Group, signed a deal to ship 30,000 tonnes of malting barley to Heineken Mexico. Tehan noted that “Austrade worked closely with CBH Group to fast-track its expansion into Latin America with market intelligence and local contracts.”

On 5 February, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong and Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy issued a joint statement on a Chinese company’s reported proposal for a $39 billion development in Papua New Guinea, claiming that the proposal is “yet more evidence of the vacuum the Morrison Government has left for others to fill in our region.” Wong called on Morrison to “explain what he knows about the ‘New Daru City’ proposal and guarantee it does not threaten Australia’s security interests.”

Isabella Keith is an undergraduate student at the Australian National University studying Law and Politics, Philosophy and Economics. She is currently an intern at the AIIA National Office.

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