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European Union condemns China over 'irresponsible' tweet about Australian military

The European Union has blasted China over an “irresponsible, insensitive” tweet about Australian military personnel as the regional bloc revealed it has raised the issue directly with a Chinese vice-foreign minister.

A senior EU official told the Guardian the EU regretted the recent deterioration in ties between China and Australia – which has seen Beijing take a series of trade actions against Australian exports – and called on the two sides to “re-engage in dialogue, avoid escalation and unilateral pressure”.

Japan’s embassy in Canberra also reiterated on Friday that “trade should never be used as a tool to apply political pressure”, and Japan would “duly consider how to exercise our third party rights if Australia proceeds with their case” at the World Trade Organization against China’s barley tariffs.


The statements from the EU and Japan come after the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, France, and New Zealand criticized the actions of a Chinese foreign ministry official in tweeting a digitally created image depicting an Australian soldier cutting the throat of a child in Afghanistan.

“We consider the deliberate dissemination of a fabricated image via social media accounts affiliated with China’s ministry of foreign affairs to be irresponsible, insensitive and not at all constructive, particularly given the subject in question,” Nabila Massrali, the EU’s spokesperson for foreign affairs and security policy, told the Guardian on Friday.

“Such behaviour and use of information tools to disseminate fabricated images or information cannot be justified.”

Morrison asks for dialogue with China as other countries pledge support for Australia


Massrali said the Australian government had conducted an investigation into claims of serious misconduct by Australian military personnel in Afghanistan and was taking action to address its findings.

Massrali said the EU had raised the issue during its political dialogue with China on Tuesday. Those talks occurred between a deputy secretary general of the European External Action Service and a Chinese vice-foreign minister.

Australian government ministers have been unable to secure talks with their Chinese government counterparts since earlier this year, when Beijing objected to Canberra’s early forthright calls for a global Covid-19 inquiry.

Chinese authorities have taken a series of actions against Australian export sectors, including barley and wine, which have been hit with tariffs. The Australian government has said it will not succumb to economic pressure but has stepped up its public calls for “open and regular” high-level dialogue with Beijing.

Relations with China were discussed during the recent virtual meeting between EU leaders and Scott Morrison, the Australian prime minister, on 26 November.

“More broadly, we are following developments closely and regret the recent deterioration in China/Australia relations,” Massrali said. “We hope that China and Australia can re-engage in dialogue, avoid escalation and unilateral pressure.”

Earlier this week, when Morrison demanded an apology from the Chinese government over the tweet by Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, Morrison said the dispute was broader than just the two countries, and that other nations were watching.

But China’s deputy head of mission in Australia, Wang Xining, said Morrison’s elevation of the tweet issue had the side-effect of increasing attention of the war crimes allegations detailed in the Brereton report.

“People wonder why a national leader would have such a strong opinion to an artwork by a normal young artist in China,” Wang told the ABC in a brief interview on Friday.

Wang also argued the list provided by the Chinese embassy to the media last month – which had been characterized as a list of 14 grievances – was not a definitive list of demands for Australia, but “just some examples of what we disagree with”.

His comments came after the Morrison government insisted the items on the list were non-negotiable because they went to matters of Australia’s sovereignty. The list included the government’s criticism of China over human rights in Xinjiang and Hong Kong and its blocking of Chinese investment proposals.

Wang also rejected claims of a coordinated trade campaign “targeting” Australian goods, and he pointed to Australia’s own anti-dumping actions against a number of Chinese products.

Source - https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/dec/04/european-union-condemns-china-over-irresponsible-tweet-about-australian-military

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