Australia urges US-China engagement after ‘spy balloon’ shot down

Foreign Minister Penny Wong said nations must be measured in their response to rising US-China tensions after America shot down a claimed Chinese surveillance balloon in its airspace.

A high altitude balloon floats over Montana before being shot down by US fighters over the coast. Photo: Larry Mayer/The Billings Gazette via AP

A high altitude balloon floats over Montana before being shot down by US fighters over the coast. Photo: Larry Mayer/The Billings Gazette via AP

Wong said it was important for countries including Australia to continue to engage with China and prevent its competition with America from escalating into conflict.

“We share the US’s concerns about the infringement of US sovereignty and the violation of international law and that the US has acted in a careful way, a responsible way,” she said on Monday.

“It’s very important in the specific or more generally that we don’t allow competition to escalate into conflict. To this end it is really very important that China and the US continue to engage.”

Senator Wong urged for talks between the two world powers to continue.

“We would add our voice to, I’m sure, many in the region, we want a stable, peaceful prosperous region and world,” she said.

US President Joe Biden said the balloon had crossed over sensitive military sites, but Chinese officials insisted it was a weather monitoring device that entered the country by accident.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has postponed a planned visit to China following the incident.

Wong said Australia was focused on stabilising its own relationship with China and abolish a raft of trade sanctions.

Trade Minister Don Farrell is preparing to meet his Chinese counterpart Wang Wentao.

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While the meeting’s exact date has not been confirmed, China’s $20 billion trade sanctions on Australian products including barley, rock lobsters and wine are expected to be discussed.

It will mark the first time in three years Australian and Chinese ministers responsible for trade have met and is expected to lead to an in-person discussion.

Wong said it would benefit both countries if the trade sanctions were lifted.

“This is the first step of many and both countries have to walk down the path to a more stable relationship,” she said.

“It is true many steps are being taken. It is probably also true that more steps have to be taken. We will continue to do that.”

Opposition immigration spokesman Dan Tehan said the US was justified in shooting the spy balloon down and he hoped to see a de-escalation between the two superpowers.

“What we have to ensure is that we are able to once again firmly say to the Chinese government, that this type of behaviour does not generate the type of free, fair and open Indo Pacific region that we’re looking for,” he said.

-with AAP

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