Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has defied a stern rebuke from Beijing and repeated concerns that China’s recently announced air defence zone has increased regional tensions.
“Australia is concerned about peace and stability in our region, and we don’t want to see any escalation of tensions, we want to see a de-escalation,” she told reporters in Beijing on Saturday when asked about Australia’s stance on China’s Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ).
Her remarks came after China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Friday reproached Bishop for Australia’s critical stance on the ADIZ, which China announced last month and covers islands in the East China Sea claimed by Beijing and Tokyo.
Wang accused Australia of “jeopardising bilateral mutual trust” and said “the entire Chinese society and the general public are deeply dissatisfied” with Australia’s comments.
Bishop dismissed suggestions the ADIZ dispute had damaged relations, and said negotiations on issues including a free trade deal between the two countries had been productive.
She also said she had raised human rights issues during her meeting with Wang.
Australia last month summoned China’s ambassador to voice opposition to the ADIZ, joining the US, the European Union, Japan and South Korea, who also criticised it.
Beijing blasted the move, demanding that Canberra “immediately correct its mistake” while warning that ties could be hurt.
China is Australia’s biggest trading partner and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said he is pushing for Australia to sign a free trade deal with the Asian giant.
Bishop previously said the Australian government intended to keep Japan as its “best friend” in Asia, as it works on relations with China.
Australia is not seen as a major player in east-Asian territorial disputes.