Australia’s 31st prime minister has affirmed his government’s support for greater regional security collaboration and has committed to bolstering aid to Pacific partners.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has met with US President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo for his first Quadrilateral Leaders’ meeting.
In his opening remarks, the Prime Minister stressed that despite the change of government, Australia’s commitment to the Quad and ASEAN centrality “has not changed and will not change”.
Accordingly, the Prime Minister announced the appointment of a Special Envoy to South-East Asia and has pledged $470 million in additional foreign aid to the region over the next four years.
This is in addition to a more than half a billion dollar increase in financial assistance to the Pacific.
These measures are aimed at “deepening our defence and maritime cooperation”, while also leveraging the “power of proximity” to strengthen partnerships.
“We will bring more energy and resources to securing our region as we enter a new and more complex phase in the Pacific’s strategic environment,” Prime Minister Albanese said.
“And we will continue to stand with you, our like-minded friends. And collectively, we will continue to stand up for each other.
“We will stand firm on our values and our beliefs, on what we know will enhance the prosperity and stability of our region, and what is firmly in the interests of all those who call the Indo-Pacific home.”
The Prime Minister noted the importance of fostering a “free, open, and resilient Indo-Pacific region” in a deteriorating geostrategic environment.
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“As the Indo-Pacific is reshaped, our Quad partnership is needed now more than ever to meet the challenges and threats of a less certain world, to shape that world for the better, and build a stronger, more cooperative Indo-Pacific region that respects sovereignty,” he said.
Biden hints at Taiwan military intervention
Among the key security challenges facing the Quad is the mounting tensions between China and Taiwan.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has openly expressed ambitions to absorb Taiwan under Beijing’s rule and has authorised continued incursions across the island nation’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ).
In response to a question from media in Tokyo, US President Joe Biden suggested the US would intervene militarily in support of Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.
“You didn’t want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons, are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?” a reporter asked.
President Biden responded: “Yes … that’s the commitment we made.”
However, the White House later stressed that the Biden administration’s policy of strategic ambiguity had not changed.
Beijing open to resetting relationship with Canberra
Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is reportedly seeking to reset relations with Australia off the back of a change in government.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin congratulated Prime Minister Albanese on his election victory and urged the new government to adopt the diplomatic posture of previous Labor governments.
“In the 1970s, the Labor government of Australia made the right choice to establish diplomatic relations with China, and made historic contributions to the development of China-Australia relations,” Wang said.
“The sound and steady development of the bilateral relations meets the fundamental interests and common aspiration of the two peoples, and contributes to peace, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific. China is ready to work with the new Labor government to take stock of the past and stay forward-looking.
“We should follow the principles of mutual respect and mutual benefits to promote sound and steady development of China-Australia comprehensive strategic partnership.”
However, Beijing has shown no signs of withdrawing its list of grievances with Australia, which include the Morrison government’s foreign interference laws, the ban on Huawei, condemnation of human rights abuses, and calls for an inquiry into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
[Related: Albanese, the Quad, and ‘JAUKUS’]
News Editor – Defence and Security, Momentum Media
Prior to joining the defence and aerospace team in 2020, Charbel was news editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business, where he covered developments in the banking and financial services sector for three years. Charbel has a keen interest in geopolitics and international relations, graduating from the University of Notre Dame with a double major in politics and journalism. Charbel has also completed internships with The Australian Department of Communications and the Arts and public relations agency Fifty Acres.