In a major policy address at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore Wednesday, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said major countries with “influence” on Russia should use it to end the war in Ukraine.
Describing the invasion as “unprovoked,” “illegal,” “immoral” and “inhumane,” Wong urged China, which has not condemned the invasion, to help end the conflict in Ukraine.
“To grow its international influence beyond military strength, China needs to wield this strength with restraint and legitimacy,” said Wong. “The region and the world is now looking at Beijing’s actions in relation to Ukraine.”
Australia has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russian officials, including politicians and members of the military.
Wong also told reporters in Singapore that Australia’s new center-left administration was promising regional partners greater action to combat climate change.
“The new Australian government has been elected with [a] much greater level of ambition on climate change,” said Wong. “…We see this as an enormous economic opportunity for our countries as well.”
Wong’s speech highlighted Australia’s commitment to peace and prosperity in Southeast Asia.
Susannah Patton, an analyst at the Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based research group, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that the address also was aimed at finding common ground on regional relations with China.
“I think the speech was very much an attempt by Penny Wong to try and recast Australia’s relationships with Southeast Asia in a more positive way and to try and identify shared interests, even though Australia and Southeast Asia increasingly see China in very different terms,” said Patton.
Australian relations with China have sunk to new lows in recent years. There have been disputes over human rights, democracy in Hong Kong, and Beijing’s territorial ambitions in the South China Sea. There has been friction this year over China’s attempts to further its trade and security agendas in the Pacific.
Australia’s Labor government wants to ditch the often-hostile tone toward China of the previous center-right administration.
Wong has promised a more considered approach. Reports have said it is possible she could meet her Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, on the sidelines of the G-20 summit this week in Bali, Indonesia.