CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Australian Foreign Secretary Penny Wong called on Monday for tensions to be eased after Beijing accused her of “pointing the finger” in its criticism of China’s military exercises in response to the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan.
Wong criticized China’s launch of ballistic missiles during the ongoing air and sea exercises around Taiwan, which Beijing claims is part of its territory. She also signed a joint statement with the United States and Japan on Saturday condemning the firing of missiles into Japan’s exclusive economic zones and accusing China of “increasing tension and destabilizing the region.”
The Chinese embassy in Australia responded to the trilateral statement, saying: “It is absolutely unacceptable to point the finger at China’s justified actions to protect state sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The embassy accused Australia of following the orders of the United States, which China described as the “greatest saboteur and destabilizer of peace in the Taiwan Strait and the biggest troublemaker for regional stability.”
“We hope that the Australian side can handle the Taiwan issue with caution, not follow certain countries’ strategy to contain China with Taiwan, and not create new problems and disruptions in China-Australia relations,” a statement said. statement from the embassy. .
Wong declined to comment on the state of Sino-Australian relations following Pelosi’s visit last week. Beijing had signaled a potential reset in the relationship following the election of the new Australian government in May. During the nine years that the previous government had been in power, relations had reached new depths.
“What is most critical at the moment is lowering the temperature and restoring calm when it comes to tensions in the strait,” Wong told reporters.
“Australia continues to push for restraint, Australia continues to push for de-escalation, and this is not something that only Australia is asking for, and the whole region is concerned about the current situation, the whole region is calling for stability to be restored.” Wong added.
Wong’s call for restraint was supported by Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, who was in the Australian capital Canberra for the opening of a new embassy.
Rinkevics drew parallels between Chinese military assertiveness over Taiwan with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“It is very important to understand that China is also looking very carefully at what is happening in Europe, what is happening in Ukraine,” he said. “It is very important that we work together and we send the same message of the need to exercise restraint, not overreact in their actions and not create a new regional and global hot spot.”
Latvia wants Russia to be declared a state sponsor of terrorism and has urged other countries to follow Latvia’s lead by denying all Russians any type of visa.