Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says it is in Australia’s interest to engage, as he prepares to meet top officials in Vietnam to discuss a range of issues including relations with China.
He was responding to a question about whether Australia could play an intermediary role in negotiations, as the relationship between the US and China reaches its lowest point in decades.
The two countries remain deeply divided over everything from the sovereignty of Taiwan to espionage and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
Speaking on Saturday at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s top security summit, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said he was deeply concerned by China’s unwillingness to engage on military crisis management and warned that talks are key to avoiding conflict.
Mr Albanese said the idea that Australia can be isolated from the world because it is an island continent has been disproved time and time again.
“Whether it’s a global pandemic, a potential cyber event, or indeed the conflict that we see of Russia in Ukraine (which) has had a direct impact on Australians, because of the global inflation that it’s caused.
“I think we are a trusted nation. We’re a nation that is straightforward – and when I deal with my international counterparts, I give straight-talking,” he said.
Mr Albanese will on Sunday sit down with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, as well as the Communist Party general secretary, the president and the chairman of the national assembly.
The Australian leader said with China bordering Vietnam to the north, the issue of their relationship and China’s actions internationally would no doubt be discussed.
Last week, Vietnam accused a Chinese survey vessel and its escorts of violating its sovereignty, amid a territorial dispute involving the South China Sea.
‘Dialogue and engagement ‘
“(Australia) and Vietnam share a view on the South China Sea, and that the Convention on the Law of the Sea needs to be upheld and maintained,” Mr Albanese told media in Hanoi on Saturday.
Defence Minister Richard Marles was scheduled to meet with Chinese counterpart Li Shangfu on Saturday afternoon, which Mr Albanese described as positive.
“From dialogue and engagement comes understanding,” he said.
“And we, of course, have said that we want to co-operate with China wherever we can.”
Talks in Vietnam are also expected to encompass clean energy technology, tourism, education and transnational crime-fighting.
There will also be discussions on improving Vietnamese workers’ access to jobs in Australia.
Australia is home to about 350,000 people of Vietnamese background.
— with AAP