BEIJING, China: Australia’s and China’s foreign ministers will meet for the first time in three years, marking a warming in their relations following claims of foreign interference and retaliatory trade sanctions.
In a briefing in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will hold a meeting with Australia’s foreign minister on the sidelines of the G20 gathering in Bali.
The new Albanese government in Canberra was “willing to engage” with China, but it wanted trade measures that China has taken against Australia to be lifted, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong earlier told reporters in Bali.
“We believe it would be in China and Australia’s interest for this relationship to be stabilized, and that would require both parties to make a step,” she said.
Despite deteriorating relations in recent years, China is Australia’s largest trading partner and its largest customer for its iron ore.
In response to policies and decisions, such as Australia’s call for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19 and its 5G network ban on Huawei, China imposed trade sanctions on Australian products ranging from coal to seafood and wine.
A heated domestic political debate began in Australia over foreign interference legislation, which saw a Labor Senator resign after accepting donations from a Chinese businessman who was later barred from the country by intelligence agencies.
In a speech regarding Chinese intelligence activities, the case was cited by MI5 Director-General Ken McCallum.
In a recent speech in Sydney after a meeting between defense ministers on the sidelines of a security conference, Chinese Ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian said there is now an opportunity to improve ties.
While Wong said this week that the new Australian government would be calm and disciplined in dealing with “challenges in the relationship” with China, the Albanese government, elected in May, said there would be no change in policies.
Wong also called for the release of two Australian journalists detained in China and awaiting verdicts in national security cases.