04 May Senator James Paterson calls for closer relations with Taiwan
Primrose Riordan — The Australian — 4 May, 2017
An Australian government senator has called for closer relations with Taiwan and met with the country’s president Tsai Ing-wen amid a diplomatic spat between Australia and China.
A group of MPs and Senators — Senator James Paterson, Stuart Robert, Senator Dean Smith, former Defence Minister Kevin Andrews, Senator David Bushby and Kevin Hogan — met with President Tsai Ing-wen as part of a long-arranged parliamentary delegation visit to the country.
Senator James Paterson said Australia and Taiwan — who do not share formal diplomatic relations in observance of the Chinese ‘One-China’ policy — could have closer relations.
“Our two nations have a great trading relationship and importantly also share liberal democratic values. These are strong foundations for even closer relations in the future,’ Senator Paterson wrote on Facebook.
Senator Paterson said it was “an honour” to meet Ms Ing-wen.
“Taiwan has been an important trading partner for decades. Our visit is a valuable opportunity to further our economic and wider relations with this vibrant democractic nation,” Mr Andrews said.
His comments came after Foreign Minister Julie Bishop hit out at a Chinese delegation that disrupted a meeting in Perth over the presence of a Taiwanese company.
The Chinese delegation to the four day Kimberley Process meeting on Monday succeeded in excluding the Taiwan-based “Rough Diamond Trading Entity of Chinese Taipei” from the rest of the conference.
“It was regrettable. There is a time and a place for making political statements. I didn’t believe this was the time or place,” Ms Bishop said on Wednesday.
Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye visited the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra on Tuesday to explain China’s role in the incident.
The Kimberley Process meeting aims to get government, the global diamond industry and civil society groups together to discuss conflict diamonds
The Chinese government’s objections were supported by some African delegates. A source said the Chinese delegation was using Whatsapp to communicate their displeasure with other delegates.
China’s foreign ministry said it raised concerns about the Taiwan delegation’s role in the Kimberley Process with Australia before the meeting.
“China’s reasonable concerns were not respected,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
Chinese-Taiwan relations have been increasingly tense since the election of new President Tsai Ing-wen last year, who is seen as far more independent from Beijing.
This article was originally published in The Australian.