US Republican presidential candidate John McCain on Tuesday called on Australia to help encourage greater openness in China, a nation he said had not met all the responsibilities of a global power.
In an opinion piece in The Australian newspaper, McCain said that the US's involvement in the Asia Pacific region had to begin with its allies.
He said while Japan had been a strong and reliable partner, South Korea was taking on new global responsibilities and the US shared values and common purpose with New Zealand, the alliance with Australia "sets the standard".
"Firm commitments to our allies will set the stage for an American engagement of China that builds on the many areas of common interest we share with Beijing and encourages candour and progress in those areas where China has not fulfilled its responsibilities as a global power," he said.
McCain, who said the US could reinvigorate its alliances with Thailand and the Philippines and build on newly strengthened ties with Singapore and India, said the Beijing Olympics had provided a vivid demonstration of modern China.
"Americans and Australians have been impressed with Beijing's glittering landscape and warmed by the hospitality and graciousness of the Chinese people," he wrote.
"But in Beijing our journalists have also seen up close how human dignity suffers when basic rights such as freedom of speech and religious worship are denied.
"Our shared challenge is to convince the Chinese leadership that their nation's remarkable success rests ultimately on whether they can translate economic development into a more open and tolerant political process at home, and a more responsible foreign policy abroad."
McCain said that climate change, nuclear proliferation and trade were also all pressing issues for the US and the Asia Pacific region.
"If elected president of the US, I will look to Australia to help us navigate these challenges," he said.
On climate change, McCain said that he would work with Australia's centre-left Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to establish a global framework which draws in China and India to counter the man-made problem.
"Australians have looked to the US for leadership on climate change and it is time for us to answer that call," he said.
McCain said that free trade agreements, such as those the US has with Australia and Singapore and has negotiated with South Korea, were also "critical building blocks for an open and inclusive economic order in the Asia-Pacific region."
"They create billions of dollars' worth of new exports and set a higher standard for trade liberalisation that ultimately helps all the nations in the region," he said.