Australia remains committed to maintaining the “status quo” vis-à-vis China, but will defend its national interests and values, says Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
China launched nearly a dozen ballistic missiles during fire drills near Taiwan following the controversial visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the island earlier this week.
The state-controlled media also warned the United States that it would bear the brunt of “all the consequences” of the ongoing visit.
Mr. Albanese would not have been attracted to comment on Mrs. Pelosi’s visit, but said his government wanted peace and security in the region amid the ongoing tensions.
“Australia has said that we do not want any change in the status quo, this is also the position of the United States,” he told ABC radio on Friday.
“I do not comment on the decisions on which the US speaker made the decision to visit there.
“This is really a problem for them.”
The prime minister urged caution after the Chinese military exercises.
“We need to stay the course we are on, which is to seek cooperation and positive relations with China where we can, but to defend Australian values and Australian national interests where we must,” Albanese said.
“This includes the issue of the law … allowing safe navigation and passage even through the South China Sea.”
Foreign Minister Penny Wong warned that Beijing’s actions could lead to an accidental conflict.
Liberal Senator James Paterson also called for calm, condemning China’s response to the trip.
“I would encourage the government to consider how we have done in the past, calling on China to exercise restraint and avoid actions that could lead to miscalculations or accidents,” he told ABC radio.
“The military exercises taking place around Taiwan today are highly risky and could easily cause damage unintentionally and China really needs to step back from those actions.”
Senator Paterson, who visited the island, said it is consistent with the “One China” policy advocated by Australia and the United States.
“This is a grossly disproportionate response to the launch of ballistic missiles into your neighbors’ territorial waters in response to a congressional delegation,” he said.
“It is perfectly normal for members of the United States Congress, including the Speaker of the House, to visit Taiwan.”
US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will visit Canberra on Monday for talks with Senator Wong and officials.
Ms. Sherman will also visit Samoa, Tonga, the Solomon Islands and New Zealand over the next week, while the United States turns its diplomatic attention to the region.