China wants Australian 'concrete actions' to improve ties

Christopher Bodeen - Associated Press
China wants Australian 'concrete actions' to improve ties
Argentina's Foreign Secretary Jorge Faurie, second from left, Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, third from left, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi, second from right, and Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop talk before the group picture during the G20 foreign ministers meeting at San Martin Palace in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Monday, May 21, 2018.
AP / Natacha Pisarenko

BEIJING — China on Tuesday called for "concrete actions" from Australia to improve ties following tensions over Beijing's anger with recent political moves by Canberra.

The terse remarks by Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang followed a meeting between Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Australian counterpart, Julie Bishop, that produced markedly different responses from the two sides.

Lu quoted Wang as telling Bishop that Australia needed to "take off tinted glasses (and) see China's development from a positive perspective" if it really wanted to get relations back on track. "Tinted glasses" is Chinese diplomatic shorthand for what it sees as Western bias.

"China-Australia relations have gone through difficulties recently, which even inflicted impacts on bilateral cooperation in some aspects. That is not what we want," Lu quoted Wang as saying.

"We hope Australia will genuinely translate its words into concrete actions," he quoted the minister as saying. "Australia must correct its understanding first in order to promote the development of China-Australia relations."

Bishop, in contrast, was upbeat about the exchange, held Monday on the sidelines of a Group of 20 minister's conference in Argentina, describing it as "very warm and candid and constructive."

"I get on very well with Foreign Minister Wang Yi, we've known each other for a very long time. Australia will continue to approach our bilateral relationship with goodwill and realism and pragmatism and open communication," she told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

China is Australia's most important trading partner but diplomatic ties have suffered over a range of issues, including proposed legislation to ban foreign interference in Australian politics that followed accusations of meddling by Beijing and its proxies.

The Chinese foreign ministry said then that remarks on the legislation by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull were prejudiced against China and had poisoned the atmosphere of China-Australia relations.

Following his visit to Argentina, Wang was due to hold talks Wednesday in Washington, D.C., amid trade tensions with the U.S. and questions surrounding a summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, the leader of Chinese ally North Korea, planned for next month.

Bishop has not visited China in two years and although Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited Australia last year, that did little to improve ties.

Li visited to ask the government to ratify an extradition treaty so that Chinese fugitives from China's anti-corruption campaign could no longer use Australia as a safe haven. But the treaty was shelved a week later because it was doomed to be blocked in the Senate over human rights concerns.

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