Biden’s Indo-Pacific chief talks of ‘renaissance’ between Australia and US

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Anthony Albanese’s visit to the US has given Australia and the United States a boost for dealing with China in the days and weeks ahead, according to a senior White House official.

The alliance was undergoing a “renaissance”, said the White House’s Indo-Pacific co-ordinator, Kurt Campbell, and it gave both nations greater confidence in their difficult relationships with Beijing.

President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese during the recent trip.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

With Prime Minister Albanese due to visit Beijing on Saturday, Dr Campbell said US President Joe Biden had told China’s leaders that “securing and strengthening allies and partners is at the top of our list”.

The Albanese visit to Washington had been “extraordinarily effective and well choreographed” and gave America an “enormous confidence and a boost going into these meetings with Wang Yi”, China’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, in Washington at the end of last week.

The US had issued stern warnings to the Chinese regime against any further intrusions into the Philippines’ maritime territories after two collisions at sea between the two nations, Campbell also said.

“We’ve demarched [formally protested] the Chinese at very high levels, we’ve engaged the Filipinos in many areas of reassurance, we’ve talked to allies and partners, Japan and Australia and others, on standing together with respect to provocations on the Second Thomas Shoal,” Campbell told this masthead, referencing the site of recent incidents within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone but claimed by China.

“So I think we’ve sent the clear message – do not test us.

“We believe deterrence is working. And we will stand firmly by our Filipino friends and allies.”

US President Joe Biden’s Indo-Pacific co-ordinator Kurt Campbell.Credit: Andrew Taylor

An international arbitration in The Hague in 2016 found China has “no legal basis” for its claims. Beijing has ignored the ruling.

Campbell signalled that the US could look to Australia to help prevent further Chinese destabilisation of the Philippines and other countries with South China Sea territories under Chinese claim.

Australia would have “the opportunity perhaps for more joint patrols, continuing consultations with regard to the situation in the South China Sea and elsewhere”, he said.

“The Australians are operating more regularly in the western Pacific, as are Canadians, as are other countries, and we support that and encourage it.”

Campbell said the US-Australia alliance had emerged stronger after Beijing attempted economic coercion of Australia by imposing punitive trade bans and issuing a list of 14 grievances against Australia.

Speaking of the Albanese visit to Washington, he said: “On a couple of occasions in recent days, Australian friends expressed appreciation that during Australia’s darkest days we [America] communicated that we would
not leave Australia alone on the playing field ‘and you did not’.”

The AUKUS agreement and a wide range of new technological collaborations were evidence of the strengthening alliance.

He said Australia needed to focus on executing the AUKUS deal: “We’ve seen some positive signs, but those have to be followed up on and have to be taken seriously at every level.”

Albanese is scheduled to become the first Australian leader to travel to Beijing in seven years, pursuing a “stabilisation” of relations.

As a result of the negotiations with Wang Yi last week, Biden is now expected to meet President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of an APEC summit in San Francisco in two weeks’ time, also pursuing more stable relations with China.

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