Aussie FM to visit Indonesia, China

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iol pic wld Julie Bishop-oz

AFP

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop addresses the press following an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) event, during the 68th United Nations General Assembly, in New York, September 25, 2013. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel Dunand

Sydney -

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will hold talks with Indonesia on Thursday to help repair ties strained by a spying row and draw up a code of ethics to govern relations.

The nation's top diplomat will also visit China, where relations are likewise on edge after Canberra's criticism of Beijing's new air defence identification zone, which covers East China Sea islands disputed with Japan.

“The minister will lead a high level delegation to Jakarta for broad-ranging discussions about the bilateral relationship, following President (Susilo Bambang) Yudhoyono's recent statement,” her office said.

Reports last month that Australian spies tried to tap the phones of Yudhoyono, his wife and his inner circle in 2009 sparked one of the worst diplomatic crises between the two strategic allies in years.

Jakarta reacted furiously, ending cooperation on military exercises and in the key area of people-smuggling while recalling its ambassador from Canberra.

Tensions calmed after Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott sent Yudhoyono a letter of explanation, with the two leaders agreeing that top-level envoys would discuss protocols and a code of ethics to govern relations that were “clear, fair and abided to”.

Abbott has also suggested a security round table to build trust.

Bishop will meet with her counterpart Marty Natalegawa, who said the meeting was the first step in a six-point process recommended by Yudhoyono last week aimed at restoring trust between the two nations.

“I'm looking forward to a frank and candid discussion and to being able to begin that process of moving forward,” Natalegawa told AFP.

However, Australian Defence Minister David Johnston admitted the damage would not be immediately repaired.

“It will take some time for current issues in bilateral relations to be worked through, but they will be resolved in time,” Johnston said.

“Building trust is essential and that can only be done through personal contact and mutual respect.”

From Jakarta, Bishop will travel to China, primarily for the annual Foreign and Strategic Dialogue with counterpart Wang Yi, which will focus on a bilateral agenda and regional and global issues of common concern.

The visit comes after Beijing reacted angrily last month to Bishop summoning its ambassador to voice opposition to the East China Sea air zone, with China demanding Australia correct its “mistake” immediately.

Canberra refused, proclaiming a right to speak out where Australian interests were concerned.

The announcement of Bishop's trip to Beijing coincided with an investigation by Australian police and intelligence agencies into a suspected industrial espionage case at the nation's top scientific organisation involving a Chinese national.

The Sydney Morning Herald said a focus of the intelligence probe was to determine whether the man sent information to a foreign power. - Sapa-AFP


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