Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says Australia aheres to a One China policy and will seek to “work constructively” with US President-elect Donald Trump after he broke with 37 years of protocol and spoke directly to the leader of Taiwan.
As experts in China and across the region raced to interpret the significance of Mr Trump’s call, Ms Bishop said on Sunday that Australia spoke officially to Beijing but maintained unofficial contact with Taiwan to promote economic, trade and cultural interests.
“The Australian government will seek to work constructively with the Trump administration after the inauguration early next year, and this will include our perspectives on regional and global issues,” she said.
James Curran, a leading expert in US-Australia relations, said Mr Trump’s telephone call would increase jitters in Asia.
“Successive presidents since Nixon have resisted this kind of move,” the US Studies Centre professor said.
“[Governments in Asia] have all got the gravitational pull of the Chinese economy, they all want the Americans to stay and, when things like this come along, it upsets the apple cart.”
Australia’s position had become more complex because the Turnbull government desperately wanted Mr Trump to honour an agreement that would have asylum seekers living on Manus Island and Nauru settled in the US.
But Professor Curran doubted Australia would allow the new US administration to use the refugee issue as a bargaining chip on regional security issues.
“We will not do anything like America’s bidding in order for them to seal this refugee deal,” he said.
“That is to say, it’s not like we’ll say to Washington under Trump, ‘As long as you keep this refugee deal, we’ll do a freedom of navigation patrol through the 12 nautical mile zone’.
“Our policy settings are pretty clear: we don’t want to do anything that would make an already febrile situation in the North China Sea worse.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in Sydney on Sunday he was confident Mr Trump would honour the one-off resettlement arrangement.
“It’s a very good arrangement and we are confident it will continue through the transition,” Mr Turnbull said.
His comments came after White House spokesman Eric Schultz was asked about the agreement in the US over the weekend.
He said the resettlement issue would be dealt with “one president at a time”.
“The Commander-in-Chief, this President, sets the policies,” Mr Schultz said. “The President-elect, Donald Trump, will set the policies once he takes the oath of office.”
At a 50-minute rally before a crowd of supporters in Cincinnati last week, Mr Trump linked Monday’s violent rampage by Somalian immigrant Abdul Razak Ali Artan at Ohio State University to refugee programs “stupidly created by our very stupid politicians”.
Mr Trump, who moves into the White House in 48 days, said he would “suspend immigration from regions where it cannot be safely processed”.
The more than 2000 refugees in detention facilities on Nauru and Manus Island are from countries including Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan and Sri Lanka.
“President-elect Trump has just run the most hardline anti-immigrant election campaign and we are frantically trying to get it signed off under the Obama administration but what’s to say Trump would honour it,” Mr Curran conceded.
“But, by the same token, it would be a real snub, a real kick in the teeth to a close ally, if one of the first things that Trump was to do when he came into office was to abrogate that deal or tear it up.”