Anthony Albanese has been put on the spot about whether Australia would send troops to Taiwan if it were invaded by China – after Joe Biden said the US would defend the island.
In a press conference at the Quad leaders’ summit in Tokyo, the new Prime Minister said there was ‘no change’ on the position of ‘strategic ambiguity’.
Mr Albanese also revealed he had received a congratulatory letter from the Chinese Government after winning Saturday’s election.
The Labor leader said he would respond ‘appropriately in time’ to the letter from Premier Li Keqiang.
The letter appears to be an olive branch after Beijing refused to speak to Canberra following Scott Morrison’s calls for an inquiry into the origins of Covid-19 in 2020.
Anthony Albanese (pictured with President Biden) has received a congratulatory letter from the Chinese Government after winning Saturday’s election, he revealed
The move enraged Australia’s largest trading partner which subsequently slapped tariffs and unofficial bans on Aussie exports including barley, wine and seafood.
Mr Albanese said the US-led position of ‘strategic ambiguity’ – or keeping China guessing over what allies would do if it invades Taiwan – was still in place.
‘I confirm there’s no change in Australia’s position,’ he said.
‘There should be no unilateral change to the status quo. Our position has not changed.’
It came after gaffe-prone President Biden said ‘yes’ when asked by a reporter if the US would respond militarily to an invasion of the island.
Mr Biden’s aides quickly scrambled to confirm there was no change to US policy.
There is no mutual defense treaty between the US and Taiwan, but America sells the Taiwanese military hardware.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said President Biden’s comment ‘highlighted our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to help provide Taiwan the means to defend itself.’
Also in the press conference, Mr Albanese revealed he had a 25-minute phone call with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson which focussed on climate change.
‘We had quite a good discussion, longer than I thought it would be,’ he said, adding that Mr Johnson was pleased about Labor’s commitment to take more climate action.
He denied he would move to close down coal mines in Australia.
‘We have our policy. We will do exactly what I’ve said we would do in terms of our powering Australia plan. It’s all out there. It’s fully costed. It’s ready to go. It will make a big difference,’ he said.
Joe Biden has praised Anthony Albanese’s energy after the new Prime Minister flew to Tokyo on his first day in the job
While meeting his counterparts in Tokyo, Mr Albanese declared he is looking forward to hosting the 2023 Quad leaders event.
‘Today I had the pleasure of meeting with PM Kishida, POTUS and Narendra Modi at the Quad Summit in Tokyo,’ he wrote on Twitter.
‘We affirmed our shared commitment to the Quad, and to a free, open and resilient Indo-Pacific. I look forward to hosting Quad Leaders in Australia in 2023.’
In the meeting on Tuesday, President Biden praised Mr Albanese’s stamina after the new Prime Minister flew to Tokyo on his first day in the job.
The 79-year-old US President, who famously fell asleep during the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow last year, told Mr Albanese: ‘If you fall asleep while you’re here, it’s OK’.
In his first appearance on the world stage, the Labor leader laughed at President Biden’s self-deprecating joke along with the diplomats and journalists in the room.
He also beamed from ear to ear as he posed for photos with his fellow centre-left leader, who remarked that his appearance at the summit just hours after taking office was ‘quite extraordinary’.
President Biden famously fell asleep during the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow last year
Mr Albanese, 59, was sworn in as Prime Minister on Monday and immediately flew to Tokyo for the Quad summit with the US, Japan and India.
The alliance was set up to counter the growing assertiveness of China in the Indo-Pacific and the first leaders’ meeting was in Washington DC in 2021.
Mr Albanese will be returning to Australia on Wednesday afternoon after the whirlwind visit.
In his short speech to his fellow leaders, President Biden congratulated Mr Albanese on winning Saturday’s election.
‘Prime Minister Albanese, I welcome you to your first Quad meeting. Like I said, you got sworn in, got on a plane and if you fall asleep while you’re here, it’s OK because I don’t know how you’re doing it,’ he said.
‘It’s really quite extraordinary just getting off the campaign trail as well.
‘Congratulations on your election. When you won and I called you, we greatly appreciate your commitment on being here so soon after taking office.’
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, left, US President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are greeted by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, right
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese speaks during the Quad leaders summit meeting
The four leaders waved for the cameras as they posed for photos at the summit in Tokyo
Mr Albanese said that Australia’s commitment to the Quad remained steadfast despite the change in government.
‘We have had a change of government in Australia, but Australia’s commitment to the Quad has not changed and will not change,’ he said.
‘And our commitment to ASEAN (an alliance of south-east Asian nations) and its centrality has not changed.
‘My government has already committed to a greater focus on South-East Asia, including the appointment of a Special Envoy for the region and $470million in additional foreign aid over the next four years.’
Mr Albanese also talked up his increased commitments on tackling climate change and spoke about his aim to reduce emissions by 43 per cent by 2030.
‘The new Australian Government’s priorities align with the Quad agenda – taking action on claimant change, and building a stronger and more resilient Indo-Pacific region through better economic security, better cybersecurity, better energy security and better environmental and health security,’ he said.
‘Our cooperation is built on the values that we share – a commitment to representative democracy, the rule of law and the right to live in peace.’
All four leaders talked about securing a ‘free, open Indo-Pacific’.
US President Joe Biden meets Quad Summit leaders Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese
Mr Albanese said that Australia’s commitment to the Quad remained steadfast despite the change in government
China’s olive branch to Australia
By Peter Vincent
China appears to have offered Australia an olive branch in the wake of Anthony Albanese ‘s election but the new Prime Minister is already talking tough on Beijing.
An editorial in the state media mouthpiece, Global Times , described the election result as ‘a turning point’ and reminded its readers that relations with Australia had been ‘mutually beneficial’ for 50 years.
It went on to claim the Australian government under Scott Morrison ‘severely damaged [the relationship] in just a couple of years, which is lamentable’.
It said Australia had adopted a ‘hawkish anti-China stance’ in recent years, but appeared to pitch itself as ‘a good partner’ on tackling climate change and ‘economic prosperity’.
The Global Times has run a series of articles in recent years mocking, threatening and raging at Australia’s trade and diplomatic ties to the United States, and attacking Mr Morrison, including labeling him ‘a clown’ in February.
The official Xinhua news agency reported that Premier Li Keqiang had ‘called’ Mr Albanese to congratulate him on his election victory. This was denied by the PM’s office.
Mr Li said in a statement: ‘The Chinese side is ready to work with the Australian side to review the past, look into the future and uphold the principle of mutual respect and mutual benefit, so as to promote the sound and steady growth of their comprehensive strategic partnership.’
Mr Li spoke with Scott Morrison in 2018. Mr Morrison spoke with China’s supreme leader Xi Jinping in June 2019.
The Quad leaders were set to discuss security concerns in the region, including the signing of a security pact between China and the Solomon Islands, as well as climate change, infrastructure needs and collaboration on disaster relief.
It comes as the Chinese foreign minister is due to touch down in Honiara later in the week to officially sign the agreement.
The Quad is also set to unveil new maritime measures to curb illegal fishing in the Indo-Pacific, including using satellite technology to track illegal fishers, according to the Financial Times.
President Biden met with Prime Minister Kishida on Monday where he unveiled the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, which includes a dozen initial partners making up 40 per cent of the world’s GDP.
Partners include Australia, New Zealand, Japan, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Brunei.
Mr Albanese said the Quad dialogue would send a signal to the world that there was a new government in Australia.
The four leaders gave speeches during the summit in Tokyo on Tuesday
Prime Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida welcomes Prime Minister of Australia Anthony Albanese at the entrance hall of the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo
Mr Albanese smiles as he represents Australia on the world stage for the first time
‘It’s a government that represents a change in the way we deal with the world on issues like climate change, but also a continuity in the way we have respect for democracy and the way that we value our friendships and long-time alliances,’ he told reporters in Canberra before he departed on Monday.
Mr Albanese held individual bilateral talks with the leaders throughout Tuesday.
The prime minister is joined by Foreign Minister Penny Wong, with the pair being briefed by the head of the Office of National Intelligence and top officials from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Department of Foreign Affairs on the trip over.
Mr Albanese also had a 25-minute conversation with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson while in the air on Monday.
The pair discussed ongoing support for the trilateral AUKUS agreement and climate change, with Mr Albanese describing the call as a ‘friendly and very positive discussion about our strong relationships between our two countries’.
Mr Albanese received a phone call from President Biden on Sunday night, which the prime minister said was ‘fruitful and productive’.
PM Fumio Kishida walks with Australia’s new PM Anthony Albanese at the Quad summit