PM issues summit warning, against tense US China backdrop


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Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will make his first visit to Vietnam as leader on Saturday, amid concern in Hanoi over Chinese ships operating in its exclusive economic zone.

Mr Albanese is expected to meet with four key leaders – Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, the Communist Party general secretary, the president and the chairman of the National Assembly.

As recently as last week, Vietnam accused a Chinese survey vessel and its escorts of violating its sovereignty.

The South China Sea is a strategic waterway through which trillions of dollars of trade passes each year, including many vessels carrying Australian export goods.

Before heading to Hanoi, Mr Albanese told the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore that upholding sovereignty was “not just for the biggest powers, or the loudest voices – but for every nation”.

Anthony Albanese reviews honor guards with Singapore’s Acting Prime Minister Lawrence Wong. Photo: AAP

“Sovereignty that confers on every nation the right to determine its own destiny … to have confidence in the integrity of our borders, including our maritime zones, and control of our own resources,” he said.

“If this breaks down, if one nation imagines itself too big for the rules, or too powerful to be held to the standards that the rest of us respect then our region’s strategic stability is undermined and our individual national sovereignty is eroded.”

Mr Albanese portrayed Australia’s decision to boost its defence capabilities as not to prepare for war “but to prevent it – through deterrence and reassurance and building resilience in the region”.

“Doing our part to fulfil the shared responsibility all of us have to preserve peace and security,” he said.

“And making it crystal clear that when it comes to any unilateral attempt to change the status quo by force – be it in Taiwan, the South China Sea, the East China Sea or elsewhere – the risk of conflict will always far outweigh any potential reward.”

Beyond regional security, the talks are expected to range across clean energy technology, tourism, education and transnational crime-fighting.
There will also be discussions on improving Vietnamese workers’ access to jobs in Australia.

Australia is home to about 350,000 people of Vietnamese background.
The country of more than 100 million people has a growing middle class, and aims to have “developed nation” status by 2045.

Mr Albanese will attend events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Vietnam.

US, China defence chiefs shake hands at summit

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin shook hands with China’s Minister of National Defence Li Shangfu on the sidelines of the security summit in Singapore but the two did not have a “substantive exchange,” the Pentagon says.

In a video posted on Twitter by a Wall Street Journal reporter, Austin was seen smiling while shaking hands with Li around a dinner table.

In a statement, the Pentagon said the two spoke only briefly.

“The Department believes in maintaining open lines of military-to-military communication with the PRC – and will continue to seek meaningful military-to-military discussions at multiple levels to responsibly manage the relationship,” Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder said, referring to China by its official name, the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

China earlier declined a formal meeting with Austin during the Shangri-La security summit taking place over the next few days.

Relations between China and the United States have been tense, with friction between the world’s two largest economies over everything from Taiwan and China’s human rights record to its military activity in the South China Sea.

Despite the tensions and heated rhetoric, US military officials have long sought to have open lines of communication with their Chinese counterparts to be able to mitigate potential flare-ups or deal with any accidents.


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