Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Australia/Oceania

Newsline: Vanuatu president says he asked for US embassy, not military base

Vanuatu’s State House has denied reports that the president asked for a US military base to be established in the country. This morning, the Daily Post newspaper reported Tallis Obed Moses making the request in a speech to members of the US Peace Corps. Mentioning the large US base on Luganville in the Second World War, President Moses reportedly asked the US to consider returning to Vanuatu. But State House said he asked for the US to consider opening an embassy in Vanuatu, not a military base. Vanuatu’s currently covered by the US Embassy in Papua New Guinea.

https://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/360212/vanuatu-president-says-he-asked-for-us-embassy-not-military-base

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Newsline: Chinese ambassador calls on Australia to drop ‘Cold War mentality’

China’s ambassador to Australia said on Tuesday “less bias and bigotry” was needed to repair bilateral relations amid concerns over Chinese influence in Australia and its use of loans to build leverage over poorer South Pacific island nations. “We need to see each other’s development and policy intentions from a more positive perspective with less Cold War mentality,” Cheng Jingye said in a speech to politicians and business leaders in Canberra. Relations between Canberra and Beijing have soured since Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull accused China late last year of meddling in domestic affairs, and as concern at China’s influence in the region has grown. Editorials in Chinese state media, including the China Daily and the Global Times, on Tuesday accused Australia of arrogance and taking a “distorted view on relations”.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-australia-china-diplomacy/chinese-ambassador-calls-on-australia-to-drop-cold-war-mentality-idUSKBN1JF045

Newsline: Australia rules out moving its Israel embassy to Jerusalem

Australia will not be following Donald Trump’s lead and moving its embassy to Jerusalem, Julie Bishop has said, despite strong support from the party’s base. The Liberal Party’s youth arm had called on the government to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s legislative capital, and to suspend all aid to Palestine “until it terminates its ‘Martyr’s fund”. The motion, which is non-binding, was carried in a vote 43 to 31, but the foreign minister said there was no chance the government would adopt it as policy. There are 110 council delegates who have voting rights at the national council. “While I understand the sentiment behind this resolution, the Australian government will not be moving our embassy to Jerusalem,” Bishop said. “Jerusalem is a final status issue and we have maintained that position for decades and we are doing all we can do to ensure that any support we give to the Palestinian Authority is only used for purposes that we determine.”

http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/diplomacy/article/2151120/australia-rules-out-moving-its-israel-embassy-jerusalem-line-us

Newsline: Diplomat says China shunned Australia’s minister

China rejected a request for a senior bilateral meeting during a recent visit by Australia’s trade minister, a high-ranking diplomat said on Thursday, as relations between the two major trading partners fray. Frances Adamson, secretary of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), told a parliamentary committee that Trade Minister Steven Ciobo met with the mayor of Shanghai during his visit in mid-May, after an attempt to meet with his ministerial counterpart was rebuffed. “We indicated to the Chinese that a meeting with Mr Ciobo’s counterpart would have been welcomed,” Adamson said on Thursday during a scheduled parliamentary briefing. “He would have been willing to travel to Beijing for a meeting with his Chinese counterpart if that had been possible.” Relations between the two trading partners have been severely tested just two years into a free trade pact amid moves by Australia to limit foreign influence, spurring legislation banning foreign political donations.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-australia-china/china-shunned-australias-minister-during-recent-visit-diplomat-idUSKCN1IW07A

Newsline: New Zealand boosts Pacific aid by $700m, hints Australia will follow suit

New Zealand’s foreign minister has unveiled an extra $NZ700 million ($AUS654 million) in foreign aid over the next four years – largely for Pacific nations – and hinted Australia will be boosting its own spending. In a speech ahead of next week’s government budget, Foreign Minister Winston Peters announced a $NZ714m ($AUS667m) increase in foreign aid spending over four years, along with about $NZ190m ($AUS177m) more for New Zealand’s diplomatic services. In a talk to a Sydney audience earlier this year, he signalled New Zealand would be “resetting” its strategy towards the Pacific by lifting spending and moving from donor-recipient relationships to partnerships.

https://www.sbs.com.au/news/new-zealand-boosts-pacific-aid-by-700m

Newsline: Defense attache allegedly hid camera at New Zealand Embassy in US

A high-ranking New Zealand military officer has been accused of hiding a camera in a bathroom at the nation’s embassy in Washington in a case that has raised unusual jurisdictional questions. Alfred Keating was a navy commodore and the embassy’s senior defense attache at the time of the incident last July. He would have been eligible to claim diplomatic immunity from being prosecuted by U.S. authorities. But the case was handled by New Zealand police, who traveled to Washington to investigate. A New Zealand judge on Friday dismissed an appeal by Keating to have his name and other personal details suppressed. Keating, who has returned to New Zealand, has been charged with attempting to make an intimate visual recording. If convicted, he faces a maximum 18 months in prison. Court documents say a camera was found in a unisex bathroom that was available for use by the 60 or so people who worked at the embassy. “It had been purposely mounted inside a heating duct unit in the bathroom, at a height and direction that captured recordings from people who arrived and used the toilet,” the documents say. The camera was discovered after it fell on the floor. It had likely been in place for many months, according to the documents. It had been activated the morning it was found and had 19 images of people from that day, the documents say. Prosecutors say they didn’t find any indecent images when they searched Keating’s computer but they did find that he had installed the driver software for the camera. A pre-trial hearing has been scheduled for July.

https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/officer-allegedly-hid-camera-zealand-embassy-us-54926598

Newsline: There is still no US Ambassador to Australia

Last week’s sudden announcement that the man assigned as the next United States ambassador to Australia will instead be posted to South Korea has generated concern among some commentators. US President Donald Trump nominated Admiral Harry Harris as ambassador to Canberra in February. Former Ambassador John Berry left his post in September 2016, meaning it has been vacant for 19 months. Former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer has described the delay in appointing a new ambassador as an “insult and with impact”, while former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has claimed that “Australia, from President Trump’s perspective, is a second-class ally”. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, though, has said he can “well understand” the decision to reallocate Harris to South Korea, given the Admiral’s expertise.

https://theconversation.com/there-is-still-no-us-ambassador-to-australia-but-it-is-neither-an-insult-nor-a-concern-95711