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China’s Deputy Head of Mission in Australia has weighed in on the diplomatic spat surrounding a provocative graphic image of an Australian soldier killing an Afghan child, telling reporters he believes Prime Minister Scott Morrison overreacted in his response.
Mr Morrison called the image created by young ‘wolf warrior’ artist Wuheqilin “utterly outrageous” and called for an apology from Beijing after it was shared on Twitter by foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian.
On Friday, Wang Xining suggested to reporters in Canberra the escalation of the matter in recent days, which has seen a defiant response from Chinese officials and state media, could have been avoided.
"I think it's unfortunate that this issue evolved in such a way that has gone astray and now there is a much larger visibility of the Brereton report in China," the Deputy Head of Mission told the ABC’s Stephen Dziedzic.
"More people are attentive to what happened in Afghanistan.
"People wonder why a national leader would have such a strong opinion to an artwork done by a normal young artist in China."
He reiterated China’s stance that Beijing is seeking “concrete actions” from Mr Morrison in order to rebuild the damaged relationship.
China's Deputy Head of Mission to Australia Wang Xining speaks with journalists outside @dfat following international backlash about 'the Afghanistan tweet' and list of 14 grievances with Australia #auspol @SBSNews pic.twitter.com/SoZyAIUYJm
— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) December 4, 2020
He insinuated Trade Minister Simon Birmingham’s long wait to converse with his Chinese counterparts over a raft of perceived economic sanctions placed on Australian exports will continue until considerable concessions are made by the prime minister.
Mr Wang was speaking after attending Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne’s foreign policy speech attended by scores of diplomats from around the world.
Europe responds to tweet
The European Union has blasted the "irresponsible, insensitive" Chinese tweet.
Representatives from the powerful political and economic bloc have raised the issue with a Chinese vice-foreign affairs minister.
"We consider the deliberate dissemination of a fabricated image via social media accounts affiliated with China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be irresponsible, insensitive, and not at all constructive, particularly given the subject in question," an EU spokesman told AAP.
"Such behaviour and use of information tools to disseminate fabricated images or information cannot be justified."
Australia's intelligence allies including the United States, New Zealand and Canada have all criticised the aggressive Chinese tweet.
The EU is closely following deteriorating relations between China and Australia, with trade and diplomatic ties sinking to a new low.
"We hope that China and Australia can re-engage in dialogue, avoid escalation and unilateral pressure," the spokesman said.
The diplomatic spat was raised at a recent EU-Australia leaders meeting during discussions on regional affairs.
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