Sunday, Oct 26, 2003
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By P. S. Suryanarayana
The call, with a strategic resonance in the present context of the U.S. role in Iraq and Australia's proactive support for Washington, was made during Mr. Hu's Australia visit that concluded today. Significantly, the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, who held talks with Mr. Hu in Canberra, offered to help ease the overall climate of the Sino-American relations. On a separate diplomatic track, the Chinese Defence Minister, Cao Gangchuan, today reached the U.S. from Beijing for talks with his American counterpart, Donald Rumsfeld, and other leaders.
Welcoming Mr. Hu to the Australian Parliament in Canberra on Friday, Mr. Howard said: "Our aim is to see calm and constructive dialogue between the United States and China on those issues which might potentially cause tension between them, and it will be Australia's aim, as a nation which has different but nonetheless close relationships with both of those nations, to promote that constructive and calm dialogue''.
Canberra's independent links with the U.S., on one side, and China, on the other side, "will be extremely important to the stability of our (Asia Pacific) region'', Mr. Howard emphasised.
Addressing the Parliament in Canberra one day after the U.S. President had told the very same chamber of the "special responsibility'' of his country and Australia to maintain peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region, Mr. Hu said: "We believe in democracy in international relations. The affairs of the world should be handled through consultation, on equal footing, by all countries''. Mr. Hu noted, against this background, that "a key component of China's external relations .... is ..... to consolidate and develop its all-round cooperation with Australia''. Mr. Hu and Mr. Howard presided over a signing ceremony for an economic blueprint to bring about a bilateral free trade agreement. Later, addressing the press, Mr. Hu expressed the `hope' that Australia "will maintain high vigilance against .... the attempts by the Taiwan authorities to undermine peace in the Taiwan Strait''.
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