China on Friday said its foreign minister Wang Yi will visit Australia next week to “cement political trust”, just days after reports said US President Donald Trump berated Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull on phone over an Obama-era agreement to accept 1,250 refugees.
Wang will visit Australia and New Zealand from February 7-10, foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang told reporters in Beijing.
It will be Wang’s first foreign visit following Chinese New Year and assumes significance as the Trump-Turnbull phone call, that was to last for an hour but abruptly disconnected by Trump after 25 minutes over disagreement on the “dumb deal” on accepting refugees, is likely to upend the US’ bilateral diplomatic landscape with a “strong ally”.
According to a report in The Washington Post, Trump called the conversation with Turnbull “the worst by far” of his calls with world leaders that day. American media reports say Trump insisted it was a very bad deal for the US to take refugees and that one of them was going to be the “next Boston bomber”.
Australia’s The Sydney Morning Herald has commented that Trump’s behaviour “came as a shock for many in Australia and overseas that Trump would publicly create waves with such a strong ally.”
The verbal spat could provide China an opening in the important country surrounded by the Indian and Pacific oceans. Australia is already upset over Trump rescinding the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement reached by Obama keeping China out of the deal.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Wang will co-host the fourth China-Australia diplomatic and strategic dialogue with his Australian counterpart during the visit. He will also meet his New Zealand counterpart and other leaders.
“We hope the visit will help cement political trust, expand cooperation and boost the China-Australia and China-New Zealand all-round strategic partnerships,” Lu said.
Also, Australia has invited China amid reports that Beijing may try to take the leadership of the TPP vacated by the US.
China itself is bracing for a tense standoff with Trump over a host of issues, including the disputed South China Sea, trade tariffs and allegations of currency manipulation.