China has accused Australia of playing the victim in a bitter trade dispute while justifying a Chinese ban on Australian coal.
The assertion comes as Chinese state-owned media appeared to confirm that Australia has been excluded from a list of countries no longer subject to clearance restrictions when importing coal.
While there has been no formal notification of the ban, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry did not deny it was in place.
“The Chinese authorities have recently taken measures against some imported Australian products in accordance with law and regulations,” said Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at a regular press conference Tuesday in Beijing.
“It is in line with Chinese laws and regulations and international practices, as well as a responsible act for Chinese domestic industries and consumers.
“Actually for some time, I have repeatedly heard some people from the Australian side claim to be the so-called victims, constantly accusing and attacking China by innuendo, which is completely making a countercharge confusing right and wrong. China will never accept this.”
He said everything China did was legal and in the interests of its consumers and companies.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the ban would be a lose-lose for both countries and a clear breach of World Trade Organisation rules.
He also emphasised it would force China to buy dirtier coal from other countries, putting its climate change ambitions at risk.
China has slapped a series of trade bans and tariffs on Australian goods as diplomatic tensions simmer over foreign interference and investment laws and calls for an independent inquiry into the origins of coronavirus.