- Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and French President Emmanuel Macron together warned China to follow the rule of law in the Asia Pacific.
- France is the only European country with direct territorial links to the Pacific region, which plays an important role in the country’s defence building.
- Australia has been closely monitoring China’s growing influence in the region, with ties between the two countries becoming strained.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and French President Emmanuel Macron together made pointed comments about the need for China to follow the rule of law.
Speaking at a joint press conference in Sydney, Macron and Turnbull said that they welcomed China’s growth and investments but maintaining the rule of law is a critical objective in the Asia Pacific.
“Peace and relative harmony in our region has been enabled by adherence to rule of law,” Turnbull said. “That rule of law is what we seek, and our policy seeks to maintain that in the region.”
Macron mirrored Turnbull’s statements, saying enhanced cooperation between Australia and France is “nothing against China,” and serves to “preserve rules-based development in the region, especially in the Indo-Pacific.”
“It’s important in this new context not have any hegemony in the region. This partnership is a very important way to progress,” Macron said.
France is the only European country with direct territorial links to countries in the Pacific region, which play an important part of the nation’s defence building.
For its part, Australia has been closely monitoring China’s growing influence in the region.
Ties between the two countries became strained when Turnbull proposed legislation to target and broaden the definition of foreign interference, after a wave of claims regarding China’s influence in political campaigns in Australia. The laws have been derided in China, and since then the two countries have been sparring over strained diplomatic relations.
China has also been heavily investing in Pacific islands, spending $US1.7 billion in aid and concessional loans to fund 218 projects in the Pacific Islands between 2006-2016. And recently reports emerged that Beijing is considering increasing its military presence in Vanuatu.
Turnbull has previously expressed concern over foreign military presence in the region.
“The maintenance of peace and stability in the Pacific is of utmost importance to us,” Turnbull recently said.
Just last month the Chinese navy “challenged” Australian warships in the South China Sea.
Tara Francis Chan contributed to this report.