DEFENCE Industry Minister Christopher Pyne has contradicted US president-elect Donald Trump on China, saying Australia had not changed its one-China policy.
Mr Trump has offended fellow superpower China by saying he didn’t “necessarily” think America should have to stick with its one-China policy unless Beijing and Washington struck a new deal.
The comment was significant, as most countries including Australia have for decades refused to
acknowledge the autonomy of Taiwan, for fear of offending Beijing.
Speaking after a speech in London this morning, Mr Pyne said Australia had a one-China policy and “we have not changed our view about that.”
“President-elect Trump hasn’t changed any policy setting with respect to the United States at this
stage and how he chooses to communicate his views to the Chinese government is really a matter for him but the Australian Government has not changed its policy in relation to one China,” he said.
Mr Pyne also fended off criticism of the Joint Strike Fighter project by Mr Trump, who took to social media to rail that the cost of the project was “out of control” and promised to save “billions of dollars” after he was inaugurated on January 20.
The project is a massive plan by countries including Australia, the US, the UK, Canada and other allies to get a fleet of cutting-edge fighter jets to replace the existing war plane fleets, but the cost will come to more than $1 trillion US.
“We are very confident that the joint strike fighter is the right jet for Australia and for the United States and the rest of the world,” Mr Pyne said.
“We are very committed to the program as a partner nation. We’ve just become the Asia Pacific hub for the joint strike fighter. Eventually there will be 3000 joint strike fighters operating in the world, it’s the most potent weapon in the air and we think it’s the right choice for our country.”
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In his speech to the Policy Exchange think tank, Mr Pyne urged greater co-operation between
Australia and UK defence specialists and industries. He spent the day touring the Rolls Royce factory near London, and on Wednesday will visit the shipyards of DCNS, the French company which secured the multi-billion- contract to build Australia’s fleet of 12 new submarines.
Mr Pyne could not say when Defence Minister Marise Payne, who has been sick for three weeks, would be back at work and whether she would attend important talks with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in Japan this month.
Senator Payne’s lengthy absence as she battles a significant infection and recovers from surgery has heightened speculation about a possible reshuffle of the Turnbull Cabinet.
“I spoke to the Defence Minister on Saturday, she’s in very good spirits, she’s recovering well and as for her return to work and the trip to Japan, that’s a matter you’d have to put to her office,” Mr Pyne said.