Thursday, December 3, 2020

Australia PM seek peaceful coexistence with China


A diplomatic war of words between Australia and China over a graphic tweet seemed to finally cool on Thursday as Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison struck a much more conciliatory tone.

Morrison’s change in approach came even after he was thwarted in getting his views out directly to Chinese people over the messaging app WeChat, after the company deleted his post on the grounds it could distort historical events and confuse the public.

Earlier this week, Morrison expressed indignation and anger at the tweet posted by a Chinese official that showed a fake image of a grinning Australian soldier holding a bloodied knife to a child’s throat. The post took aim at alleged unlawful killings and abuses by Australian soldiers during the conflict in Afghanistan.

Morrison called the tweet “truly repugnant” and “deeply offensive” and demanded an apology from China. But China did not back down, saying that Australia should be the one examining its actions.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying on Thursday declined to comment further on the controversy, and told reporters at a daily briefing that WeChat’s management had their “own rules and regulations”.

On Thursday, Morrison took a much different approach, telling reporters in Canberra that his aim was for the two countries to have a “happy coexistence”.

“My position and my government’s position is to seek constructive engagement,” he said.

“The relationship with China is a mutually beneficial one. It supports both our countries, it is good for both of our countries.” China is Australia’s largest trading partner.

Morrison said Australia had made its views very clear on both the tweet and the WeChat message.

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he was disappointed about both the tweet and the deleted post. “What the prime minister did in his WeChat message before it was disappointingly deleted was he made it very clear Australia is proud of its servicemen and women who wear the uniform,” Frydenberg said.

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