China-Japan feud a test for Australia’s links with both nations

“Japan strongly regrets that China took such a measure,” the embassy spokesman said.

“We are communicating our objection to the Chinese government through diplomatic channels and demanding that the measure be dropped.”

Speaking before departing on a trip to Papua New Guinea, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Australia had “a very positive relationship with Japan” and wanted to see improved relations with China.

Noting speculation that China could be about to lift its ban on Australian coal, Albanese said the government would “continue to put our case that any impediments which are there towards trade should be removed in Australia’s interest and in China’s interest”.

The state-owned Global Times newspaper reported the first batch of Australian coal was expected to arrive in China in late February.

In a speech to Papua New Guinea’s parliament on Thursday, Albanese will say Australia and PNG are “bound not just by a shared past and a shared border but by a common determination to shape our own futures”.

“As two big Pacific Ocean states, Australia and PNG must work as equals with our fellow Pacific states to build a stronger, safer, more secure region,” he will say.

Albanese will say he hopes to achieve a swift conclusion to negotiations on a bilateral security treaty with PNG and increase the number of PNG workers in Australia.

It was unclear why China singled out Japan and South Korea for retaliation, but both countries have tougher entry COVID requirements for Chinese travellers than Australia.

South Korea requires travellers from China to obtain a PCR test within 24 hours of arrival and remain in isolation until receiving negative results. Japan requires travellers from China to be tested upon arrival.

Lowy Institute China expert Richard McGregor said it would run counter to recent improvements in the Australia-China relationship if Beijing were to impose retaliatory measures on Australia.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Tuesday: “Regrettably, a handful of countries, in disregard of science and facts and the reality at home, have insisted on taking discriminatory entry restriction measures targeting China.

“China firmly rejected this and took reciprocal measures.”

The withholding of visas from South Korean or Japanese businesspeople could delay a much anticipated return of commercial activity after China abruptly ended its tough “zero COVID” policy last month.

Cut through the noise of federal politics with news, views and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up to our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here.

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