SYDNEY, May 21 (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Sunday that he backed a Group of Seven (G7) joint statement out of Japan stressing the need to ease reliance on trade with China.
The G7 rich nations, which increasingly see China as a economic security threat, on Saturday issued a communique from the city of Hiroshima that referred to de-risking, not decoupling economic engagement with the world’s second largest economy.
Addressing media in Hiroshima, Albanese, who attended a Quad leaders’ meeting on the sidelines of the summit on Saturday, said according to an official transcript: “I support the G7 communiques about the international relations that we have there”.
Albanese said Australia had “for some time” expressed concern about China’s activity, pointing to the “chafing” of an Australian aircraft.
In May 2022, a Chinese fighter aircraft dangerously intercepted an Australian military plane in the South China Sea region, according to Australia’s defence department.
“We’ve expressed concern in the past, we’ll continue to do so,” Albanese said.
“What we need to do is to make sure we work in a way that enhances the peace, security and stability in the region.”
China, firmly opposing the G7 statement, has complained to summit organiser Japan, the Chinese foreign ministry has said.
The leaders of the United States, Japan, India and Australia – a group known as Quad – said in Hiroshima they sought a region “where no country dominates and no country is dominated”, language that also appeared targeted at China.
Albanese’s comments come amid a recent thaw in Australia-China relations, with China set to resume imports of Australian timber, and talks under way about a visit by the prime minister to Beijing.
Australia’s main political opposition, the Liberal-National coalition, on Sunday urged Albanese to wait for confirmation on the lifting of trade sanctions before visiting China.
“That clarity should be there before the Prime Minister entertains a formal state visit to Beijing,” Shadow Foreign Minister Simon Birmingham told ABC television.
Reporting by Sam McKeith; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore