Australia criticises China's air defence zone

2013-11-28 16:25
(Kyodo News, AP)

(Kyodo News, AP)

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Sydney - Australia refused on Thursday to back down from criticism of China's newly-declared air defence identification zone, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott proclaiming a right to "speak our mind".

Australia on Tuesday summoned China's ambassador to voice opposition to the zone over the East China Sea, which includes Japan-administered islands at the heart of a tense dispute between the two neighbours.

It prompted Beijing to blast the move as "irresponsible", demanding that Canberra immediately correct its "mistake" while warning that ties could be hurt.

But Abbott remained defiant on Thursday, saying Canberra would always speak out where Australian interests were concerned.

"Where we think Australia's values and interests have been compromised, I think it is important to speak our mind," he told reporters.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop denied the United States, which has also refused to recognise the new zone, pressured Australia into its position.

China's biggest partner

"This is longstanding Australian policy to oppose any unilateral or coercive action by any country that could add to the tensions that currently exist in the East China Sea," she told reporters.

"We have a key stake, a key interest in ensuring that there is peace and stability in our region."

China is Australia's biggest trading partner and Abbott has pushed for deeper ties with the Asian giant.

But Washington remains Canberra's key ally, and last month Bishop said the new government intended to keep Japan as its "best friend" in Asia, as it works on relations with China.

Abbott said on Thursday he did not believe Canberra's position would have ramifications for free trade talks with China.

"China trades with us because it's in China's interests to trade with us," he said.

"I think China fully understands that on some issues we're going to take a different position to them."

Abbott in October said he hoped a long-negotiated free trade agreement with China could be concluded within a year.

Read more on:    tony abbott  |  china  |  australia  |  us

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