China: Foreign Minister Penny Wong plays it cool ahead

Foreign Minister Penny Wong says Paul Keating will not speak on behalf of Australia during high-level talks with a senior Chinese diplomat, breaking her silence.

The former prime minister‘s comments come ahead of her sit down with China’s foreign minister Wang Yi on Wednesday, marking the first trip made to Australia by a highly-ranked Beijing official since 2017.

Ahead of her historic meeting with her Chinese counterpart, Senator Wong told The Australian Mr Keating was “entitled to his views” but said he “does not speak for the government nor the country”.

The Labor veteran has been a fierce critic of Senator Wong’s approach to managing foreign relations with China, most recently blasting her government’s “mindless pro-American stance” during the Australia-Asean special summit in Melbourne earlier this month.

Senator Wong is expected to raise a host of issues with Mr Wang during Wednesday’s talks, including human rights abuses, regional security, trade barriers against Australian producers and raise opposition to the death sentence imposed on Australian citizen Yang Hengjun.

On Tuesday, opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham, who will also meet with Mr Wang, told the ABC that Mr Keating should “reconsider” his meeting with Wang Yi.

“It is quite pointed and somewhat insulting towards Senator Wong for the Chinese Embassy to have sought this meeting, given just how publicly critical Paul Keating has been of Penny Wong and the Albanese government and their foreign policy,” Mr Birmingham said.

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