Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged the United States and China to show more “latitude” to smaller nations, warning that partners and allies need “a bit more room to move” as strategic competition intensifies in the region.
Morrison used a speech to the UK think tank Policy Exchange to call on both great powers to dial down hostilities, declaring Australia does not want to be forced into a “binary choice” between Washington and Beijing.
China’s Government has recently ratcheted up criticism of Australia and hit several exports with trade sanctions, accusing the Federal Government of unfairly blocking Chinese investment and smearing China with false accusations of espionage and foreign interference.
But the Prime Minister said Australia’s actions were not part of a strategic campaign to contain China and said the contest between the incumbent and rising powers “heavily clouded and distorted” Beijing’s views.
“Our actions are wrongly seen and interpreted by some only through the lens of the strategic competition between China and the United States,” Mr Morrison said.
“It’s as if Australia does not have its own unique interests or views as an independent sovereign state. This is false and needlessly deteriorates relationships.”
Mr Morrison urged both the US and China not to force nations into a corner.
“If we are to avoid a new era of polarisation, then in the decades ahead, there must be a more nuanced appreciation of individual states’ interests in how they deal with the major powers,” he said.
“Stark choices are in no-one’s interests. Greater latitude will be required from the world’s largest powers to accommodate the individual interests of their partners and allies.
“We all need a bit more room to move.”