October 7, 2022

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong called Monday for easing tensions after Beijing accused her of “finger-pointing” in her criticism of China’s military exercises in response to a visit by the speaker of the House of Representatives. of the US Nancy Pelosi in Taiwan.

Wong criticized China’s launch of ballistic missiles during ongoing air and sea exercises around Taiwan, which Beijing claims as part of its territory. He also signed a joint statement with the United States and Japan on Saturday that condemned the missile launch into Japanese exclusive economic zones and accused China of “increasing tension and destabilizing the region.”

The Chinese embassy in Australia responded to the tripartite statement, saying: “It is absolutely unacceptable to point the finger at China’s justified actions to safeguard state sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The embassy accused Australia of doing the bidding of the United States, which China described as “the biggest saboteur and destabilizer of peace in the Taiwan Straits and the biggest troublemaker for regional stability”.

“We hope that the Australian side could deal with the Taiwan issue with caution, not follow the strategy of some countries to contain China with Taiwan, and not create new problems and disruptions in China-Australia relations,” a statement said. embassy. .

Wong declined to comment on the state of the Sino-Australian relationship after Pelosi’s visit last week. Beijing had signaled a possible reset in the relationship after the election of a new Australian government in May. Relations had plunged to new depths during the previous government’s nine years in power.

“What is most critical right now is that the temperature comes down and calm is restored when it comes to tensions in the straits,” Wong told reporters.

“Australia continues to call for restraint, Australia continues to call for de-escalation and this is not something Australia is asking for alone and the whole region is concerned about the current situation, the whole region is asking 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 China’s military claim to Taiwan and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“It’s very important to understand that China is also watching very carefully what’s happening in Europe, what’s happening in Ukraine,” he said. “It is very important that we work together and provide the same message about the need for restraint, not to overreact to their actions and not create another regional and global hotspot.”

Latvia wants Russia declared a state sponsor of terrorism and has urged other countries to follow Latvia’s example by denying all Russians visas.

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