Wong meets with Chinese counterpart at UN

·3-min read

Foreign Minister Penny Wong has lobbied her Chinese counterpart over detained Australians in China and urged restraint over Taiwan tensions.

Senator Wong met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the United Nations in New York on Friday AEST.

Senator Wong says she focused on trade blockages at the outset of the meeting, which also covered the detention of Australians in China as well as Taiwan.

"As I said to the minister, Australian interests are constant and the government will continue to speak of those issues we see as necessary," she told reporters in New York after the meeting.

"I did raise both Cheng Lei and Dr Yang (Hengjun) and a number of other consular cases."

Senator Wong said Australia would continue to engage with China to "stabilise the relationship".

"That will require engagement and goodwill on both sides," she said.

In her opening remarks to the Chinese foreign minister, Senator Wong said both sides stood to gain from productive engagement.

"We both have much to lose by the disintegration of that system," she said.

Senator Wong again clarified Australia's position on Taiwan after the opposition supported stronger rhetoric from the US president.

Opposition defence spokesman Andrew Hastie says he "supports President (Joe) Biden's posture towards Taiwan", after the US leader said troops would defend the island in the face of an "unprecedented attack".

The US and Australia have long maintained a strategy known as strategic ambiguity, where they avoid stating whether they would militarily intervene in the case of an invasion.

Mr Hastie said the president's comments were a change in posture.

"I think it is a change," he told Sky News.

"They are standing up for an island democracy of 25 million people and it's right and proper they should do that.

"We support the US. They are a close strategic partner."

Mr Hastie said any review of the long-standing policy would be a matter for the government.

The opposition's position on the issue may be discussed in shadow cabinet, he said.

But Senator Wong reaffirmed Australia's support for the status quo.

"We urge restraint. We urge de-escalation and we reiterate the bipartisan position Australia has taken since 1972," she said.

"That includes economic engagement and people-to-people engagement with Taiwan."

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton backed his shadow cabinet colleague.

"(Mr Hastie) was stating the obvious in terms of what the president of the United States has now stated on four separate occasions," he said.

Mr Dutton didn't respond to questions about whether the acceptance of a posture change affected the long-standing policy of strategic ambiguity.

"There's speculation about the US intent in terms of that language, both by the president and then by the White House spokesperson," he said.

"I'll leave others to draw conclusions about that. We want to be very close to the United States."

Australia, New Zealand, the US, the UK and Japan also met with Pacific nations in New York as part of the Partners in the Blue Pacific group.

Senator Wong said the meeting was "a constructive conversation about how we could collaborate and partner in support of multilateralism".

White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell raised concerns about Chinese ambitions in the region but said the group's agenda would be guided by the Pacific nations.

"Clearly China has ambitions in the Pacific, some of which have caused concern among Pacific Island leaders," he said.

with Reuters