Chinese state media has taken umbrage with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's response to six Australian MPs visiting Taiwan this week, just as it appeared Sino-Australian relations were on the mend.
While Mr Albanese distanced himself and his government from the visiting party, which includes former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce and two Labor MPs, nationalistic Beijing mouthpiece The Global Times suggested he should have gone one step further and "explicitly expressed" his opposition.
"Considering Albanese's vague and cop-out remarks which will undoubtedly encourage the arrogance of anti-China forces and pro-Taiwan secessionist forces in Australia, there is a big question mark hanging over Australia's sincerity on improving its relations with China," the Global Times said, as per "Chinese observers".
Amid a period of strained relations with the US and Australia, Beijing has seen recent Western diplomatic visits to Taipei as interference to its unwavering one-China principle, notably US house speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to the island of Taiwan in August which triggered military tests around the sovereign island.
Mr Albanese said he had "no idea" what the delegation's intentions are.
"There remains a bipartisan position when it comes to China and when it comes to support for the status quo on Taiwan," Mr Albanese told reporters in South Australia on Saturday.
Federal MPs Taiwan visit a 'dangerous trend'
The delegation will reportedly meet with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, with the visit having support from Taiwan's foreign ministry. Meetings will reportedly be held on security, trade, agriculture and indigenous affairs.
Chen Hong, director of the Australian Studies Centre at East China Normal University, told the Global Times it was clear there were "anti-China" forces working to derail Sino-Australian relations.
"If the hard-won warming of China-Australia ties are harmed by such reckless moves, the national interests of Australia will again suffer, and Canberra will take the consequences," he said, noting recent visits to Taiwan were a "dangerous trend".
It comes after Mr Albanese's remarks sparked concern in Taiwan after he suggested a new trade pact would only be for "recognised" countries, essentially ruling out Taipei. Taipei says it has since received reassurance from Canberra that was not the case.
Sino-Australian relations recently took a step in the right direction, with Mr Albanese becoming the first prime minister to meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping since 2018 after what was a torrid period for the relationship, particularly under former prime minister Scott Morrison.
The delegation is the first of its type to visit Taiwan since 2019.
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