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Wong meets with Chinese counterpart at UN

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Foreign Minister Penny Wong has lobbied her Chinese counterpart over detained Australians in China as well as urged restraint over Taiwan tensions.

Senator Wong met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the United Nations in New York on Friday AEST.

Senator Wong says she focused on trade blockages at the outset of the meeting, which also covered the detention of Australians in China as well as Taiwan.

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“As I said to the minister, Australian interests are constant and the government will continue to speak of those issues we see as necessary,” she told reporters in New York after the meeting.

“I did raise both Cheng Lei and Dr Yang (Hengjun) and a number of other consular cases.”

Senator Wong says Australia will continue to engage with China in order to “stabilise the relationship”.

“That will require engagement and goodwill on both sides,” she said.

Senator Wong again clarified Australia’s position on Taiwan after the opposition supported stronger rhetoric from the US president.

Opposition defence spokesman Andrew Hastie says he “supports President (Joe) Biden’s posture towards Taiwan”, after the US leader said troops would defend the island in the face of an “unprecedented attack”.

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The US and Australia have long maintained a strategy known as strategic ambiguity, where they avoid stating whether they would militarily intervene in the case of an invasion.

Mr Hastie says he believes the president’s comments are a change in posture.

“I think it is a change,” he told Sky News.

“They are standing up for an island democracy of 25 million people and it’s right and proper they should do that.

“We support the US, they are a close strategic partner.”

Mr Hastie said any review of the long-standing policy would be a matter for the government.

But Senator Wong reaffirmed Australia’s support for the status quo.

“We urge restraint. We urge de-escalation and we reiterate the bipartisan position Australia has taken since 1972,” she said.

“That includes economic engagement and people to people engagement with Taiwan.”

Australia, New Zealand, the US, the UK and Japan also met with Pacific nations in New York as part of the Partners in the Blue Pacific group.

Senator Wong said the meeting was “a constructive conversation about how we could collaborate and partner in support of multilateralism”.

White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell raised concerns about Chinese ambitions in the region but said the group’s agenda would be guided by the Pacific nations.

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“Clearly China has ambitions in the Pacific, some of which have caused concern among Pacific Island leaders,” he said.

“When we engage with Pacific Islanders one of the first things they say is … how climate change is an existential issue for them.”

– AAP

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