Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has warned other nations may “call the shots” in Asia should the US retreat into isolationism under President Donald Trump.
- Ms Bishop says Asian nations want to see increased US leadership in the region
- In her speech, Ms Bishop will argue Australia and the US are like-minded partners
- She will reaffirm Australia’s support for the principles underpinning the TPP
In a speech to be delivered in Los Angeles on Friday, Ms Bishop will claim most Asian nations want to see more US leadership in the region despite concerns about tensions in the South China Sea.
“Australia is concerned about continued construction and militarisation of disputed features in the South China Sea, in particular the pace and scale of China’s activities,” Ms Bishop said.
Ms Bishop said Australia said would continue to exercise its right to freedom of navigation and flight over the South China Sea, but did not take a side in the territorial dispute.
“However, we encourage countries to resolve disputes peacefully in accordance with international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.”
Mr Trump’s nominee for secretary of state Rex Tillerson has threatened to restrict or block China’s access to artificial islands in the South China Sea, drawing a strong rebuke from Chinese state media.
His comments also drew criticism from former prime minister Paul Keating, who accused the Trump administration of threatening to involve Australia in a war with China.
Ms Bishop has spoken with US Vice President Mike Pence, with White House staff confirming he thanks Australia for its “steadfast partnership and contributions around the globe”.
Brooke Wylie Tweet: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has spoken with Vice President Pence today. It comes as the FM prepares to speak at a G’Day USA event in LA
One of Mr Trump’s first acts as President was to announce an “America first” foreign policy based on “peace through strength”, and increased investment in the military.
In her speech, Ms Bishop will argue Australia and the US are like-minded partners and reaffirm that the Federal Government is prepared to “defend, and when necessary, fight for the values we share”.
Her comments come after Australia’s security experts called on the Federal Government to increase efforts to influence Mr Trump’s administration, avoiding complacency and panic.
Ms Bishop will claim the US is “an indispensable power” in the Indo-Pacific region, and call on the Trump administration to reject isolationism.
“Most nations wish to see more US leadership, not less, and have no desire to see powers other than the US calling the shots,” Ms Bishop said.
“Australia welcomes China’s rise and consistently urges it to assume a leadership role that supports the rules-based order and international laws that have well served us all.”
Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull told Melbourne’s 3AW Radio that Mr Trump had already invited him to Washington for a formal meeting.
Mr Turnbull said he had reiterated his desire for a strong US presence in the region, saying Mr Trump told him “the US isn’t going anywhere”.
Bishop: We support TPP principles
Ms Bishop will reaffirm Australia’s support for “the principles that underpinned the Trans-Pacific Partnership”, saying Australia will attempt to ratify the agreement with remaining nations.
Mr Trump made signing an executive order to withdraw from the trade deal a first priority of his Government, after previously claiming the deal would be a “disaster” for the US.
“While the Trump Administration has withdrawn its support for the TPP, we note President Trump’s commitment to ensuring the United States continues to be a great trading nation of the world,” Ms Bishop said.
“Australia would welcome US leadership in continuing to support the open global trading framework that has enabled so much development around the world.”
Labor’s foreign affairs spokesperson Penny Wong said US engagement in Asia promoted peace, stability and security, but criticised the Coalition for pursuing a “dead trade policy”.
Mr Turnbull conceded on Thursday that it was unlikely the US would reconsider its position on the global trade deal.
“There is no question that the United States, as the biggest part of the TPP, its loss is a very big loss,” he said.
“That’s obvious. The TPP would need to be renegotiated among the remaining countries to continue without the US.”