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Archive for Australia/Oceania

Newsline: Pacific islands tap Taiwan ally Nauru for next top diplomat

The top Pacific islands diplomatic post will pass to Taiwan ally Nauru next year, the 18-member regional bloc agreed Friday, as it resolved to face climate change and superpower rivalry as a united “family”. The Pacific Islands Forum, meeting in Fiji, also said it would hold more talks with Japanese scientists and the International Atomic Energy Agency over Japan’s plan to release treated water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea. The Cook Islands took over from Fiji as forum chairman, and the meeting agreed that Nauru’s former president Baron Waqa would become the bloc’s secretary general in 2024. Nauru has diplomatic ties with Taiwan and not China, and Waqa has previously clashed with Chinese diplomats. Asked about China at a press conference, Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown said restoring economic prosperity was important for island states facing increased debt.https://neuters.de/world/asia-pacific/pacific-islands-tap-taiwan-ally-nauru-next-top-diplomat-2023-02-24/) China last year tried but failed to strike a trade and security deal with 10 forum members who hold diplomatic ties with Beijing, and says forging security cooperation with the Pacific islands is a priority for its Global Security Initiative. Four of Taiwan’s 14 diplomatic allies are forum members.

Newsline: Australia’s new U.S. envoy is expected to alter China playbook

The appointment of Kevin Rudd as Canberra’s next ambassador to the U.S. surprised few in Australia. The former two-time prime minister has maintained a public profile in both countries, thus having high chances to alter China playbook. (https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/Kevin-Rudd-Australia-s-new-U.S.-envoy-will-alter-China-playbook) Kevin Rudd has cultivated a profile as an analyst and commentator to be reckoned with, especially on China and its president, Xi Jinping.

Newsline: Former Australian Prime Minister appointed ambassador to U.S.

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been appointed Australia’s next ambassador to the United States. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called Rudd one of the world’s most sought-after experts on China and said he would bring significant experience to the role at a time when the region was being reshaped by strategic competition. “Kevin Rudd is an outstanding appointment,” said Albanese at a news conference on Tuesday ahead of Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s state visit to China. “He brings a great deal of credit to Australia by agreeing to take up this position as a former prime minister, as a former foreign minister.” (https://neuters.de/world/former-australian-prime-minister-kevin-rudd-appointed-ambassador-us-2022-12-20/) Rudd, who speaks fluent Mandarin, has written and spoken widely on foreign relations with China since he quit politics in 2013. He completed an Oxford doctorate on the world view of China’s president, Xi Jinping, in September and heads international relations institute the Asia Society in New York. Saying he was greatly honoured, Rudd reiterated the importance of the U.S. alliance and highlighted his close personal ties with American business and political leaders after nearly a decade living and working in the country. “Our national interest continues to be served, as it has for decades past, by the deepest and most effective strategic engagement of the United States in our region,” said Rudd in a statement. Albanese said the appointment of Rudd, which follows the September appointment of former foreign minister Stephen Smith as ambassador to the United Kingdom, reflected the importance of the AUKUS nuclear submarine security deal between Australia, the U.K. and U.S. Rudd will take up his post in early 2023.

Newsline: Australia, Vanuatu top diplomats clinch security deal

Australia signed a security deal on Tuesday with the Pacific islands nation of Vanuatu, it said in a statement, amid concern over China’s military ambitions for the strategically important region. Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong is visiting Vanuatu with a bipartisan delegation, as Australia steps up its diplomacy throughout the Pacific islands after the Solomon Islands signed a security pact with Beijing in April. The security deal covers cooperation in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, policing, defence, border security, environment and resource security, cyber security and maritime and aviation safety and security, the statement said. Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister Jotham Napat told reporters on Monday the Pacific island’s new government, elected last month, has not held security discussions with China. (https://neuters.de/world/asia-pacific/australia-vanuatu-strike-security-pact-covering-policing-defence-cyber-2022-12-13/) In May, China sought but failed to reach a wider security and trade pact with 10 out of 18 Pacific island nations. Australia and New Zealand have argued security and policing needs should be met within the region.

Newsline: Vanuatu’s top diplomat calls Australia a ‘close security partner’ for region

Australia is a close security and humanitarian partner for Vanuatu and the Pacific island’s new government has not held security discussions with China, Vanuatu’s foreign minister said on Monday. Vanuatu Foreign Minister Jotham Napat told reporters in Port Vila on Monday that Australia was “a close security partner of Vanuatu and the region”, where climate change was seen as the biggest security threat. “We also took the opportunity to acknowledge Australia’s role as Vanuatu’s primary humanitarian partner due to its close proximity and through its commitment to support Vanuatu, its disaster resilience, response and recovery capabilities,” he said. He pointed to the wharf and police barracks built with Australian funding as examples of security cooperation between the two nations. Vanuatu has “not established any security agreement, we have not even discussed any matter in relation to security” with China, he told reporters in response to questions. (https://neuters.de/world/asia-pacific/australia-close-security-partner-region-vanuatu-minister-2022-12-12/) Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong is visiting Vanuatu with a bipartisan delegation to open an Australia-funded wharf at a maritime police base, and hold talks on improving work and education opportunities in Australia for Vanuatu citizens. Australia stepped up its diplomacy throughout the Pacific islands after the Solomon Islands signed a security pact with Beijing in April. China has been a significant lender for infrastructure projects in Vanuatu in recent years, building its parliament house and sporting stadiums.

Newsline: Australian family says targeted with bomb threats amid fight with Chinese diplomat

Even if Drew Pavlou wins what he believes is a landmark case against a Chinese diplomat, the activist says it won’t stop the bomb threats. However, the human rights campaigner hopes a protection order against Xu Jie is successful, saying China’s ex-Brisbane consul-general started a brutal, systematic harassment campaign against him. “The Chinese Communist Party has been behind an extended campaign to brutally go against me and my family,” Pavlou said. “My younger brother has been targeted with bomb threats, my family have continued to be targeted with death threats, I have been assaulted multiple times on Australian streets.” (https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/politics/queensland/pavlou-says-family-targeted-with-bomb-threats-amid-fight-with-chinese-diplomat-20221125-p5c1fh.html) Pavlou on Friday launched a Brisbane District Court appeal after his Peace and Good Behaviour Act application against Xu was dismissed in August 2020. The complaint two years ago followed a July 2019 protest at University of Queensland in which Pavlou was twice assaulted. Xu issued a press release after the confrontation, which Pavlou said incited violence against him. Pavlou was unsuccessful in court two years ago after a Brisbane magistrate ruled Xu had diplomatic immunity. However, he has launched the appeal after seeking legal advice from international experts even though Xu is no longer Brisbane consul-general or in Australia.

Newsline: Australia’s top diplomat pledges millions in climate, security aid for Pacific

Australia has promised millions of dollars in support for Pacific island nations to address the “existential threat” of climate change, as well as funds for Australia’s police deployment in the Solomon Islands, regional aerial surveillance, and an Australian Border Force network. Foreign Minister Penny Wong, speaking at the Pacific Way Conference in French Polynesia, said Australia would increase its total budget for overseas development assistance by 1.4bn Australian dollars (around $878.3m) over the next four years. Some 900 million Australian dollars (almost $565m) will go to the Pacific region. Australia will update its federal budget next week and 46 million Australian dollars (some $29m) will be set aside to fund the country’s police deployments in the Solomon Islands, where officers are helping to provide security since last year’s riots in the capital Honiara. Wong described the assistance as a way of supporting regional partners to “provide their own security so they have less need to call on others”. “Without these investments, others will continue to fill the vacuum,” Wong was reported to have said, according to Reuters, and she pointed to previous Australian governments for losing ground in the Pacific where “we have a lot of catching up to do”. (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/10/21/australia-promises-millions-in-security-aid-for-solomon-islands) Wong said the budget commitments would be a “major step towards the goal of making Australia stronger and more influential in the world”, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported.

Newsline: Australian embassy to remain in Tel Aviv

Foreign Minister Penny Wong has announced Labor would reverse Australia’s recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, hitting out at former prime minister Scott Morrison for his decision to “play politics” in shifting the position. Ms Wong on Tuesday said the Labor Government was committed to a two-state solution in which Israel and a future Palestinian state coexist “in peace and stability”. “Today the Government has reaffirmed Australia’s previous and long-standing position that Jerusalem is a final status issue that should be resolved as part of any peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian people,” she said. “This reverses the Morrison Government’s recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” Ms Wong said Australia’s embassy would remain in Tel Aviv, where it “has always been”. The Foreign Minister said “Australia will always be a steadfast friend of Israel” as she criticised Mr Morrison’s shift and the “distress” it caused. (https://www.skynews.com.au/world-news/global-affairs/penny-wong-reverses-decision-to-recognise-west-jerusalem-as-capital-of-israel-with-the-australian-embassy-to-remain-in-tel-aviv/news-story/) In 2018 Mr Morrison made the move to officially recognise West Jerusalem as the capital, which Labor at the time strongly opposed.

Newsline: Australia’s former prime minister may become next ambassador to the United States

In the growing speculation around who will be Australia’s next ambassador to Washington, DC, one name keeps coming up: Kevin Rudd. The former prime minister is the lead name in speculation on who will become the next US ambassador, with support from key American foreign policy figures. The Saturday Paper understands the federal government has made no formal decision about who will replace incumbent Arthur Sinodinos – a former senator and chief of staff to prime minister John Howard – when his term expires in February. (https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/politics/2022/10/15/kevin-rudd-shortlist-become-next-ambassador-the-united-states#mtr) But Rudd is in the mix. If the list contains more than one name, his is high up. On qualifications alone, it is not clear whose would be higher.

Newsline: Australia’s diplomatic efforts in the Pacific seen bearing fruit

Papua New Guinea (PNG) has announced it wants to establish a security agreement with Australia, welcome news for analysts wary of rising Chinese influence. This decision reflects well on Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s tireless diplomacy with Pacific Island capitals. Since becoming Foreign Minister a little over three months ago, Wong has made four separate trips to the Pacific; to Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand and Solomon Islands, as well as engaging with Pacific leaders during July’s Pacific Islands Forum Summit. And these efforts appear to be paying off. Not only has PNG expressed an interest in a security pact with Australia, but Timor-Leste has also just signed a defence cooperation agreement. (https://theconversation.com/penny-wongs-diplomacy-efforts-in-the-pacific-begin-to-bear-fruit-with-png-security-pact-189710) However, there is both much more and much less to the PNG security announcement than meets the eye. The announcement by Justin Tkatchenko, PNG’s new foreign minister, was light on detail. Tkatchenko said the security treaty with Australia has been in the works since 2019 but has been spurred by the recent security agreement between Solomon Islands and China.