Television Interview, Bloomberg

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

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02 6277 7800

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5 June 2023

SUBJECT/S: UN Convention on the Law of the Sea

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, RICHARD MARLES: Obviously, we want to see more dialogue and dialogue matters, which is why the Shangri-La Dialogue, I think, is so important and been so enduring over the course of its history. But I would say that the common waters, international waters, international airspace, are there for everyone. And the United States is operating in accordance with its rights within those waters. And it's important that those be maintained as open waters, because it's important that the global rules based order be maintained in this region. And certainly from an Australian perspective, when we think about where our interest lies, our interest lies in the rules of the road, and that means freedom of navigation, it means freedom of overflight, and it means that in a place like the South China Sea, for example, where most of our trade transits. So, I don't think there's any other message than the need for the rules to be applied to every country.

HASLINDA AMIN, HOST: We heard from Prime Minister Albanese urging countries in the region to avoid getting caught between the US and China. I mean, until recently, one would be forgiven for thinking that Australia is firmly on the side of the US strategically. Is Australia trying to get to the middle, in terms of US-China relations?

MARLES: Well, we have an alliance with the United States, which has been in place really since the end of the Second World War and formally since the 1950s. It's central to our national security and it's central to our worldview and we're very committed to the alliance and none of that changes. We are obviously a country of the region and our largest trading partner is China. We value a productive relationship with China, and we seek to deal in our relationship with China on its own terms. And I think its complex, that relationship, because there are security anxieties that we have in respect of China. We are seeing a very significant buildup of its military and that's happening without a sense of strategic reassurance to us, but to the region and the world about its purpose. And so we've got our issues. That said, we do have a significant economic relationship with China and we want to manage that as well. And I think it is, ultimately this is actually the reason why dialogue matters. How you navigate those two things is complex, it's not obvious, it requires discussion, and that's why we want to have it.

AMIN: But the question is whether or not Australia can be seen as a neutral party when defence ministers before you have said that it is inconceivable that Australia will not defend Taiwan, should China attack it?

MARLES: Well, first, I suppose in terms of China- in terms of Taiwan, our position is that we don't want to see any change to the status quo across the Taiwan Straits. That is our very firm position. And that's in the context of having a long standing one china policy, which has been the bipartisan policy in Australian politics going right back to the mid-1970s. So, that's where we stand in relation to Taiwan and that issue. But I come back, we can be an ally of the United States and we can build a productive relationship with China. We firmly believe that that is possible and that's the line that we seek to pursue.


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