Thu. Aug 18th, 2022

The Coalition has conceded China does appear to be aiming to establish a military base in Solomon Islands, a change of tack from former Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s insistence no such thing would happen.

But acting Prime Minister Richard Marles, who is also defense minister, is hopeful Australia’s relationship with China is on track to improve after his meeting last month with China State Councilor and Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe.

Defense Minister Richard Marles and opposition defense spokesman Andrew Hastie.

Defense Minister Richard Marles and opposition defense spokesman Andrew Hastie. Credit:James Brickwood

On Sunday, Marles said the meeting on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore was longer and more interactive than he expected despite having “traversed pretty difficult ground”.

He said the discussions started and ended with a desire from both sides “to get the relationship to a better place”.

“I hope it opens the door to a change of tone in our relationship,” Marles told Sky News.

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“We are not going to be about the chest-beating that we saw from our former government. We are about engaging with the world in a more professional, diplomatic, sober way. ”

Opposition defense spokesman Andrew Hastie said the world had seen “continuity, not change” from Marles and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in their approach to China.

“When you’ve got the Chinese newspapers online condemning Mr Albanese for being no different from his predecessor, Mr Morrison, he’s obviously continuing on with our policy,” he told Sky News.

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