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Australia calls on China to be a responsible global player

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China's increasing military and economic clout is inevitable and the nation should commit to being a responsible global player, according to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

[SINGAPORE] China's increasing military and economic clout is inevitable and the nation should commit to being a responsible global player, according to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

The government in Beijing must "be committed to a rules-based order," Ms Bishop said Monday in a Bloomberg Television interview in Singapore. When China "branches out" with initiatives such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank or its "One Belt, One Road" trading routes plan, it must be for the benefit of the region and not just one country, she said.

Ms Bishop, whose nation is a key strategic ally of the US and counts China as its largest trading partner, dismissed the likelihood of a trade war between the two powerhouses, saying there was "too much at stake".

She said she was convinced the new administration in the US will remain engaged in Asia and repeated her call for President Donald Trump to attend this year's East Asia Summit in the Philippines.

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Australia has for decades walked a fine line between supporting the strategic interests of the US and preserving economic ties with China. The US has Marines based in Australia's northern port town of Darwin, while Australia has pushed back against Beijing's military assertiveness in the South China Sea.

For Australia, the new US administration presents potential regional challenges.

China's Rise

Mr Trump has signalled a less predictable approach to foreign policy that raises doubts about the decades-long US strategic commitment to Asia. While he has recently backed military alliances with Japan and South Korea, he has also said countries should pay more for their own security.

Any pullback by the US from Asia would present an opportunity for China. President Xi Jinping has strongly advocated for free trade and globalisation in recent speeches, while pledging large sums of money to boost infrastructure across Asia.

China claims large swaths of the South China Sea, a disputed waterway to Australia's north that is an artery for global trade. Other claimants include the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Ms Bishop called for a "deescalation of tensions" in the South China Sea. In a separate interview, she also said China could do more to pressure North Korea, which has resumed provocations in recent months, firing ballistic missiles into waters near Japan and claiming it is close to building an intercontinental missile capable of hitting North America.

"I believe there is more that China can do given its special relationship with North Korea," she said.

"No other country has a relationship with North Korea as China does."

BLOOMBERG

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