We don’t have to choose sides: PM
Scott Morrison has forcefully declared Australia will not be "corralled into a binary assessment" where it must be either "pro United States or pro-China" following an extended face-to-face meeting with the Communist regime's leadership.
In one of the highest-level engagements between Australia and China in more than three years, the Prime Minister and Vice President Wang Qishan sat down for a longer-than-expected 53 minutes in Jakarta yesterday prior to the second-term inauguration of Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
"It was scheduled for half an hour and it almost went for twice that and I appreciated that," Mr Morrison told reporters after the meeting, which Australia requested.
"I came out of the discussion pleased that there is a very clear understanding of where Australia is coming from, our commitment to the relationship and I think that is understood and appreciated by China."
Mr Morrison said there was "over-analysis" of the ties countries have with China and Australia's were "inoculated from all of the assessments that are made".
"We will never feel corralled into any binary assessment of these relationships … pro United States or pro-China," he said.
"Australia has a comprehensive strategic partnership with China and we have an enduring and incredibly important alliance with the United States which is fund to our security.
"These are not mutually exclusive," he said.
It was Mr Morrison's most significant formal interaction with the regime since meeting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in November last year during the ASEAN summit in Singapore.
Mr Morrison is expected to meet President Xi Jinping at the APEC summit in Chile next month.
The last time leaders of the two countries held prearranged talks was September 2016 when then PM Malcolm Turnbull met Mr XI in Beijing.
Mr Morrison and Mr XI did informally meet at last year's APEC summit in Papua New Guinea.
Mr XI was not in Jakarta for Mr Widodo's inauguration yesterday. Mr Wang was the most senior Chinese official present.
Ties have been strained since 2018 when Australia banned Chinese telecommunications company Huawei from being involved in building 5G mobile infrastructure over national security concerns.
Tension intensified during Mr Morrison's US visit last month when he showed strong support for Donald Trump amid the escalating trade war between the US and China, which is Australia's largest trading partner by far.
That led China's Ambassador Cheng Jingye to urge greater mutual respect between the countries.
Defying this call, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton then accused Beijing of cyber-attacks on Australia.
In a meeting with Mr Widodo yesterday, Mr Morrison discussed the looming ratification of a free-trade agreement between Australia and Indonesia.
Bills that enable the FTA will come before parliament in Canberra today, with Labor likely to support their passage in a snub to unions which oppose the deal.
Indonesia is expected to ratify the FTA in late November or December.
The agreement benefits Australian farmers - with increased quotas of beef, potatoes and other agricultural exports - as well as universities and the healthcare sector, which will find it easier to operate in Indonesia.
CAPTIOL MOVE NOT OUR BUSINESS: MORRISON
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has vowed Australia will make sure its diplomats in Indonesia are kept safe if they have to move from their highly protected $415 million embassy in Jakarta to a new capital recently proposed by President Joko Widodo.
The embassy was only finished in 2016, 12 years after a car-bomb attack by Jemaah Islamiah killed nine people and injured more than 170.
Its future has been put in question by Mr Widodo's plan to relocate the seat of power to East Kalimantan on the Indonesian portion of Borneo.
The shift is a response to Jakarta sinking by 10-20cm a year; about 40 per cent of the city of 10 million people is now below sea level.
Mr Morrison said the location of the capital was a matter for Indonesia.
"We will always make sure that our officials whether they are working here in Indonesia in Jakarta or anywhere else around the world they will have the facilities and the work spaces which are safe and enable them to do their job and that is the promotion of Australia's national interest," the PM said.
"It is not up to Australia as to where a country puts its capital. That is another matter for them."