Press Conference, New York

  • Transcript E&OE
Subjects: Meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi; 2050 strategy for the Blue Pacific; detention of Cheng Lei and Yang Hengjun; Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; Former Prime Minister Abe’s funeral.

Penny Wong, Foreign Minister: Thank you very much, and thank you all very much for coming tonight. I know it's late. I know you probably have to file, so I'll try and keep this brief. It's been a productive day. I'll just start with the morning. I joined a meeting of MIKTA countries: Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia and we were also pleased to have Poland attending for some of the meeting. We had a constructive conversation about how we can collaborate and partner in support of multilateralism. I also welcomed the opportunity to catch up with Minister Manele from Solomon Islands. We value our position as a partner of choice with Solomon Islands. It was a good opportunity to talk to him about their development priorities and how we can continue to support them. The focus of this afternoon was the Pacific family, our Pacific family. I was very pleased to join Prime Minister Bainimarama and other members of the Pacific Islands Forum for the launch of the 2050 strategy the Blue Pacific. It's a strategy drafted by the Pacific for its future, a framework built on achievable actions and driven by Pacific priorities, as Prime Minister Bainimarama described it, as a compass or North Star and we look forward to working with Pacific countries on those priorities.

I also had a brief opportunity to meet with my new counterpart from the United Kingdom, James Cleverly. We had an opportunity to briefly discuss some of the matters of shared interest, obviously including AUKUS and then tonight I met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. We had another constructive meeting covering a range of issues as you would expect. As I said to Minister Wang, Australian interests are constant and the government will continue to speak on those issues we believe are necessary and continue to engage with China in order to stabilise the relationship that will require continued engagement and goodwill on both sides. I'm happy to take questions.

Journalist: [indistinct]

Foreign Minister: It was a short meeting but as you would anticipate my position on Taiwan is the same as the position I've articulated publicly. We urged restraint, and we urged de-escalation and reiterated the bipartisan position Australia has taken position since 1972 and our One‑China policy, which includes, as you know, an economic and people-to-people engagement with Taiwan.

Journalist: Did you discuss the detention of Cheng Lei and Young Hengjun

Foreign Minister: I did raise both Cheng Lei and Dr Yang and a number of other consular cases, which is the practice of every Australian official that engages with China. We continue…

Journalist: [indistinct] on China winding back [indistinct] tariffs on various exports.

Foreign Minister: Well, I have put very clearly to State Councilor Wang the view of not only the Australian Government, but the Australian people about those blockages. I think we will be releasing the opening statement or if we haven't we will shortly where I went to that specifically and it was discussed in the meeting.

Journalist: Did you get any sense from the meeting that the 14 grievances that China has might change or there's any backing away from those 14 grievances?

Foreign Minister: Well, look, China articulates their position. We articulate ours. In terms of issues of difference, obviously first amongst them is the issue of trade blockages and that's the issue that I focused on at the outset. I think that is as the Australian people would expect. As you would anticipate obviously we do raise consistent with who we are the issue of human rights and that's a consistent position. I saw you as we drove past the UN today.

Journalist: It was it was lovely seeing you.

Foreign Minister: I actually forgot you were here but now I know.

Journalist: [indistinct]

Foreign Minister: Touché. Okay! Wong zero, Kearsley one.

Journalist: [indistinct] just in relation to your meeting tonight with the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, is the issue of Ukraine at all discussed and China's lack of condemnation for Russia, would you like to see China be more assertive in being critical given the so‑called no limits friendship they have?

Foreign Minister: Look, I have actually said this publicly before and my private comments were consistent with my public comments, which is and I'll make those again that China is a great power. China is a P5 member. China has like all of us, signed up to the UN charter. We believe as does every country with the exception of Russia that Russia is in breach of the UN charter through its illegal invasion of Ukraine. And we encourage China as a member – P5 member with a special responsibility to uphold the UN charter to use its influence to end the war. Tim.

Journalist: [indistinct] Foreign Minister [indistinct] walk out [indistinct]

Foreign Minister: Well, I've been in meetings I wasn't – I'm not sure which meeting you're referring to. But Russia's disregard for the United Nations system, but, more importantly, and more fundamentally, to the principles in the charter which go to preventing war is obvious, as is the responsibility of a president who speaks of nuclear weapons.

Journalist: How alarming is this time, you're our Foreign Minister [indistinct]

Foreign Minister: Well, I think in relation to Mr Putin's comments I said yesterday they are both unthinkable and irresponsible. And that's how we should frame them. And that should the consistent position from the international community. Look, this is a difficult time. It's a time of great change. And it's a time where we need to behave in a way that is responsible, calm and considered and we need to work to expand Australian power and our influence as much as we are able on the changes, which are occurring and we have to fight for those things we believe are really important. One of them is the system of multilateralism which for all of its limitations has ensured and underpinned really unparalleled peace and prosperity in the post-World War II era.

Journalist: Can I just ask [indistinct] talk about – you talk about responsibility. Is it still the right thing is it still responsible to arm Ukraine when Vladimir Putin has made so clear that annexed territories [indistinct] constitute an attack that might [indistinct] -

Foreign Minister: Well, we cannot allow Mr Putin's irresponsible threats to be successful in shaping an outcome which goes to Ukrainian sovereignty being abrogated.

Journalist: How do you characterise the state of the relationship now between Australia and China then, there's been talk about a shift in tone about stabilisation how would you characterise it now following this meeting -

Foreign Minister: I think it was another constructive meeting. I think it is a long road on which many steps will have to be taken by both parties to a more stable relationship. I'll give you one more then I'm leaving.

Journalist: You've talked a lot about wanting to keep the dialogue open. Would there be a possibility of Ministerial level visit to China raised [indistinct]

Foreign Minister: Well, I think the next issue is, you know, continued engagement on – in the context of the various multilateral forums that we’re engaged in and it's pleasing we've had a meeting of both the G20 Foreign Ministers and also at the UN General Assembly.

Journalist: Just very briefly [indistinct] we have the United Nations here, there's a number of world leaders there's been around about seven or eight countries that have sent Foreign Ministers to speak, just from your perspective why is the Prime Minister of Australia not here why is he not going to the White House next week for [indistinct].

Foreign Minister: Well, there are very good reasons. As you know, the death of Her Majesty required the Prime Minister's attendance in the United Kingdom, which is appropriate. It also required his attendance at the National Day of Mourning in Australia, which is appropriate. And it requires his attendance at the condolence of Parliament I think, which is Australian Friday is that right next week, as is also appropriate, he is leading a delegation of former Prime Ministers to former Prime Minister Abe's the service commemorating his life and that's also appropriate. Thank you.

Media enquiries

  • Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555