Home » Entries posted by ROD McGUIRK Associated Press
Japan’s ambassador to Australia says Tokyo’s relationship with China is no better than notoriously strained Sino-Australian relationsBy ROD McGUIRK Associated PressJuly 21, 2021, 5:17 AM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleCANBERRA, Australia — Japan’s relationship with China was no better than notoriously strained Sino-Australian relations, the Japanese ambassador to Australia said on Wednesday.Japan’s ties with China are often held up as an example to Australia of how productive relations can be maintained with Beijing despite national differences. But Ambassador Shingo Yamagami said he had encountered a common misperception in Australia about the state of Japan’s relations with China since he took up his post in December last year.“The nutshell of that argument is Japan is doing far better than Australia when it comes to dealing with Japan’s neighbor, China,” Yamagami told the National Press Club of Australia.“My simple answer is: no way. I’m afraid I don’t subscribe to such an argument. Why? Because each and every day Japan is struggling,” Yamagami added.Japan, Australia and other countries needed to join forces to address challenges caused by China’s rise, he said.“Don’t worry. You are doing an excellent job. We are in the same boat and we should work together,” Yamagami said.China has become increasingly hostile toward Australia since early last year, when the Australian government called for an independent investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.Relations between the China and Australia have soured in recent years, with Australia blocking Chinese technology and investment in key infrastructure, and China using tariffs and other measures to reduce its imports from Australia.Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, president of the Asia Society, a New York-based think tank, a scholar of Chinese history and a former Australian diplomat to Beijing, is among the Australian foreign policy critics who applaud the Japanese example for dealing with China.Rudd has urged both Beijing and Canberra to “put the megaphone away” in their bilateral dealings. Japan, which like Australia is a close U.S. ally, had managed its relationship with China without retaliatory trade sanctions in recent years through deeds instead of words, Rudd said.President Joe Biden’s administration and Japan have recently said they will stand by Australia against what they describe as China’s campaign of economic coercion through informal trade sanctions.Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga argues that trade should never to used as a tool to apply political pressure, Yamagami said.“I applaud the way Australia has faced up to tremendous pressures in a consistent, principled and resilient manner,” he said.
Far-right British commentator Katie Hopkins has been deported from Australia after boasting on social media that she planned to breach quarantine rulesBy ROD McGUIRK Associated PressJuly 19, 2021, 7:23 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleCANBERRA, Australia — Far-right British commentator Katie Hopkins was deported from Australia on Monday after she boasted on social media that she planned to breach the country’s quarantine rules.Hopkins traveled to Australia to appear in a reality television program and was in a 14-day mandatory hotel quarantine in Sydney before filming was to start.Her flight to Australia last week created outrage after the government halved the number of Australian citizens and permanent residents allowed to return home each week to 3,000 to try to reduce the risk of COVID-19 leaking from hotel quarantine. More than 34,000 Australians who want to come home remain stranded overseas.Australia’s two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, are under lockdown to contain a coronavirus outbreak caused by the more contagious delta variant.Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said Hopkins would be deported after boasting on Instagram her intention to flout quarantine rules.“It’s appalling that this individual behaved the way that she did and she will be leaving,” Andrews said.“We will be getting her out of the country as soon as we can arrange that,” Andrews added.Hopkins left on a commercial flight from Sydney’s airport early Monday afternoon, a government official said on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to make the information public.Hopkins, who has also gained notoriety for her anti-Muslim and anti-immigration comments, described pandemic lockdowns as the “greatest hoax in human history.”Her social media following was expanded by then-President Donald Trump who often retweeted her before Twitter permanently banned her in June last year for breaching the platform’s hateful conduct policy.In a since-deleted Instagram video from her hotel room, she said that she planned to frighten staff who brought meals to her door by confronting them naked and without a mask.People in quarantine are not allowed to open their hotel room doors until 30 seconds after their meals have been delivered and must wear masks while their doors are open.Andrews described Hopkins’ comments as shameful.“The fact that she was out there boasting about breaching quarantine was just appalling,” Andrews said. “It was a slap in the face for all those Australians who are currently in lockdown and it’s just unacceptable behavior.”Seven Network and Endemol Shine Australia, the production company behind the program “Big Brother VIP” in which Hopkins was to appear, said on Sunday her contract was cancelled.“Seven and Endemol Shine strongly condemn her irresponsible and reckless comments in hotel quarantine,” the companies said in a joint statement.
CANBERRA, Australia — U.S. President Joe Biden, his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Russian President Vladimir Putin are among Pacific Rim leaders gathering virtually to discuss strategies to help economies rebound from a resurgent COVID-19 pandemic.New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will chair the special leaders’ meeting Friday of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.But the pandemic and vaccine diplomacy have proved to be divisive issues among members of a forum that says its primary goal is to support sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.Biden spoke by phone with Ardern on Friday ahead of the leaders’ retreat and discussed U.S. interest in maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific region, a White House statement said.“They also discussed our cooperation on and engagement with Pacific Island nations,” the statement said.The Biden administration has put a premium on tending to relations with allies in the Pacific early in his administration.One of his first high-profile acts of diplomacy as president was hosting a virtual summit with fellow leaders of the Quad — Australia, India and Japan — a group central to his efforts to counter China’s growing military and economic power. And he hosted Suga and South Korea President Moon Jae-in for the first in-person foreign leader meetings of his presidency. South Korea is a APEC member and India is the only country in the Quad that is not.Biden plans to use the virtual APEC retreat to talk to leaders about his administration’s efforts to serve “as an arsenal of vaccines to the world” in the battle against COVID-19 pandemic and how members of the alliance can collaborate to bolster the global economy, according to a senior Biden administration who was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.The U.S. has donated 4.5 million vaccine doses to Indonesia, 2 million to Vietnam, 1 million to Malaysia, and 3.2 million doses will soon be delivered to the Philippines. The White House says donations to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Papua New Guinea, will also soon be delivered. Laos and Cambodia are the only countries among those eight vaccine recipients that are not APEC members.China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the “important meeting” came at a critical time as the world was facing a resurgence in COVID-19 infection numbers and international cooperation against the pandemic had entered a new stage.“We hope all parties can uphold the vision of an Asia-Pacific community with a shared future, carry forward the Asia-Pacific partnership, send a positive message of fighting the coronavirus with solidarity and deepen economic recovery and cooperation,” Zhao said.Suga will speak about his determination to hold a safe and secure Olympics when the games start in Tokyo on July 23, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said.Suga will also emphasis Japan’s determination to secure fair access to vaccines for all countries and regions to support the global effort toward ending the COVID-19 pandemic, and Tokyo’s vision to expand a free and fair economic bloc, Kato said.Ardern said APEC’s first leaders’ meeting outside the usual annual summits “reflects our desire to navigate together out of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis.”“APEC economies have suffered their biggest contraction since the Second World War over the past year, with 81 million jobs lost. Responding collectively is vital to accelerate the economic recovery for the region,” said Ardern, whose South Pacific island nation has been among the most successful in the world in containing the virus.The pace of a global vaccine rollout and conditions attached to international vaccine deals are vexed issues among APEC members.The United States has been accused by some of hoarding vaccines. Biden came up well short on his goal of delivering 80 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the rest of the world by the end of June as a host of logistical and regulatory hurdles slowed the pace of U.S. vaccine diplomacy.Although the Biden administration has announced that about 50 countries and entities will receive a share of the excess COVID-19 vaccine doses, the U.S. had shipped fewer than 24 million doses to 10 recipient countries by July 1, according to an Associated Press tally.Taiwan, an APEC member that China claims as a renegade territory, has accused Beijing of tying the delivery of coronavirus vaccines to political demands. The government of the self-ruled island says China has intervened to block vaccine deliveries to Taiwan from fellow APEC members Japan and the United States.China has accused Australia of interfering in the rollout of Chinese vaccines in former Australian colony Papua New Guinea. Both Australia and Papua New Guinea are also APEC members.Sino-Australian relations plummeted last year when Australia called for an independent investigation into the origins of and responses to the pandemic.Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who will also join the meeting, said in a statement now was a “critical time for Australia to engage with regional partners to promote free trade facilitation, in particular for vaccines and essential goods; build momentum for strengthening the multilateral trading system; and secure a sustainable and inclusive recovery.”China said that by May it was providing COVID-19 vaccines to nearly 40 African countries, describing its actions as purely altruistic.The vaccines were donated or sold at “favorable prices,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry official said.The online leaders’ meeting that is chaired from the New Zealand capital Wellington and straddles 11 time zones comes before the scheduled annual summit in November.New Zealand’s pandemic response has been among the most effective in the world and the isolated nation of 5 million people has recorded just 26 COVID-19 deaths. But its vaccination campaign has been far slower than in most developed countries.Ardern said leading a regional response to the pandemic was one of New Zealand’s highest priorities when it took over as APEC’s chair from Malaysia in an annual rotation among the 21 members.“I will be inviting discussion on immediate measures to achieve more coordinated regional action to assist recovery, as well as steps that will support inclusive and sustainable growth over the long term,” she said. “APEC leaders will work together to get through the pandemic and promote a sustainable and inclusive recovery, because nobody is safe until everyone is safe.”————Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani in Chicago and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.
Australian government officials have announced added financial support for businesses and households as Sydney appears increasingly likely to enter a fourth week of lockdown due to coronavirus clustersBy ROD McGUIRK Associated PressJuly 13, 2021, 7:52 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleCANBERRA, Australia — Australian government officials on Tuesday announced added financial support for businesses and households as Sydney appeared increasingly likely to enter a fourth week of lockdown due to coronavirus clusters.New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she would announce on Wednesday whether Sydney’s 5 million residents would remain locked down beyond the three-week mark on Friday.She had said the 24-hour record of 122 new cases recorded on Sunday made lifting the lockdown on Friday “almost impossible.”No one knew how long the lockdown would last, Berejiklian said.“What we do know is that we have the financial support there so that individuals and families and businesses don’t have to stress and they know that for the duration of the lockdown, the support will be there,” she told reporters.Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the presence in Sydney of the delta variant, which is thought to be more contagious, had escalated the pandemic danger.“The New South Wales outbreak has proved to be more severe, more dangerous, and it’s in the national interest that we now put in place an upgraded set of arrangements for cooperation with the states and territories,” Morrison said of the disaster funding deal.The daily infection tally in New South Wales dropped to 89 on Tuesday, but authorities remain concerned that 21 of those infected with the delta variant had been in the community while contagious.Australia has recorded three COVID-19 deaths this year. A man, aged in his 70s, died on Monday in Sydney’s eastern suburbs where the current cluster began last month, officials said.A woman in her 90s from southwest Sydney died in a Sydney hospital on Saturday, a day after testing positive for COVID-19.Before her, Australia last reported a COVID-19 death on April 12. An 80-year-old old man who had become infected in the Philippines and was diagnosed while in hotel quarantine.Australia has been relatively successful in containing COVD-19 clusters and there have only been 912 deaths since the pandemic began. But the country’s vaccine rollout has been slow, which experts say has left the population particularly vulnerable to the delta variant. Fewer than 12% of the population older than 16 had been fully vaccinated by Tuesday.Australian-manufactured AstraZeneca had been recommended for all adults in Australia until a 48-year-old died of rare blood clots blamed on the vaccine in April. The clots are more common in younger people.AstraZeneca was then recommended for adults over 50 years until a 52-year-old died of blood clots blamed on the vaccine in May.The vaccine is now recommended for adults over 60. The only alternative registered in Australia is imported Pfizer which is in short supply. Most Australians under 40-years-old can’t get Pfizer.
Australia’s treasurer says his country will always keep its national interests ahead of economic interests in its troubled relationship with ChinaBy ROD McGUIRK Associated PressJuly 7, 2021, 7:38 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleCANBERRA, Australia — Australia will always keep its national interests ahead of economic interests in its troubled relationship with China, a senior Australian lawmaker said Wednesday after a White House official predicted long-term Sino-Australian tensions.Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, deputy leader of Australia’s ruling conservative Liberal Party, said China remained a “very important economic partner” despite bilateral disputes that had disrupted tens of billions of dollars in trade in Australian commodities including coal, wine, beef, barley, wood and lobsters.“We will not put economic interests first,” Frydenberg told reporters.“We will put the broader national interest first and that means standing up with a very clear and consistent sense of where our national interest is and that is what we have done,” he added.Frydenberg spoke after White House Coordinator for the Indo-Pacific Kurt Campbell said there was a “harshness” in China’s approach to Australia that “appears unyielding.”“I would have thought we were basically settling in for the long-haul in terms of tensions between China and Australia,” Campbell told an Asia Society webinar late Tuesday.A clash over vaccine diplomacy this week was the latest rift in bilateral relations, which plummeted last year when Australia called for an independent investigation into the origins of and responses to COVID-19.Australia on Tuesday denied Chinese government and state-media allegations that it was interfering in the rollout of Chinese vaccines in Papua New Guinea.While an increasingly assertive China’s relations have soured with several countries, Australia has been singled out for special treatment through a ban on government minister-to-minister contacts.Campbell said China appeared to have attempted to “cut Australia out of the herd and to try to see if they can effect Australia to completely change how it both sees itself and sees the world.”“The United States … have tried to make clear that we’re not going to leave Australia on the field. That’s just not going to happen,” Campbell said.Frydenberg said Australia was “definitely living with a different China than we’ve seen in years prior.”He said Australia had protected its national interests by barring Chinese communication giant Huawei from involvement in the nation’s 5G networks, outlawing covert foreign interference in domestic politics and canceling deals struck by an Australian state government under Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.Frydenberg had also personally blocked Chinese investment applications in Australia on national interest grounds.“I’ve increasingly seen foreign investment applications that have been pursued not necessarily for commercial objectives but for strategic objectives and, as you know, I’ve said ‘no’ to applications that in the past may have been approved,” Frydenberg said.
Sydney’s two-week lockdown has been extended for another week due to the vulnerability of an Australian population largely unvaccinated against COVID-19By ROD McGUIRK Associated PressJuly 7, 2021, 7:31 AM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleCANBERRA, Australia — Sydney’s two-week lockdown has been extended for another week due to the vulnerability of an Australia population largely unvaccinated against COVID-19, officials said on Wednesday.“The situation we’re in now is largely because we haven’t been able to get the vaccine that we need,” New South Wales state Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.The decision to extend the lockdown through July 16 was made on health advice, state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.“The reason why we’ve extended the lockdown is because of a number of cases still infectious in the community and we extended the lockdown to give us the best chance of not having another lockdown,” Berejiklian said.The extension of the lockdown, which covers Australia’s largest city and some nearby communities, means most children will not return to school next week following their midyear break.Of 27 new infections of the delta variant reported in latest 24-hour period on Wednesday, only 13 had been in isolation while infectious, officials said. The delta variant is considered more contagious than the original coronavirus or other variants.Only 9% of Australian adults are fully vaccinated, heightening fears that the delta variant could quickly spread beyond control.Berejiklian expected lockdowns would no longer be necessary once a large majority of Australians were vaccinated.There have been more than 300 infections linked to a limousine driver who tested positive on June 16. He is thought to have been infected while transporting a U.S. flight crew from Sydney airport.Last week, almost half Australia’s population was locked down with cities on the east, west and north coasts tightening pandemic restrictions due to clusters. Some of those lockdowns were as short as three days.Sydney and its surrounds are the only part of Australia still in lockdown.Australia has been relatively successful in containing clusters throughout the pandemic, registering fewer than 31,000 cases and 910 deaths total.Australia has recorded a single COVID-19 death since October: an 80-year-old man who died in April after being infected overseas and diagnosed in hotel quarantine.But now there are 37 COVID-19 cases in Sydney hospitals. Of those, seven are in intensive care, the youngest in their 30s.
Australia plans to halve commercial passenger arrivals due to virus risks as parts of the country emerge from lockdownsBy ROD McGUIRK Associated PressJuly 2, 2021, 5:21 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleCANBERRA, Australia — Australia plans to halve commercial passenger arrivals due to virus risks as parts of the country emerged from lockdowns Friday.Australia will reduce its cap on arrivals from 6,000 passengers a week to 3,000 by July 14 to reduce pressure on hotel quarantine, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said after a meeting with state and territory leaders.Australia already has some of the world’s tightest border restrictions aimed at keeping COVID-19 out of the country. The new restrictions add to obstacles faced by 34,000 Australian citizens and permanent residents stranded overseas and registered with the government as wanting to come home.The government will charter more airliners to repatriate Australians, but the reduced limit on commercial passenger arrivals could continue until next year.“If medical advice changes between now and then, if medical advice suggests that we can alter that, then of course the National Cabinet has always been receptive to that advice and we’ll continue to monitor that,” Morrison told reporters, referring to his decision-making meetings with the state and territory leaders.“We wouldn’t want to keep those caps in place any longer than we had to,” he added.Almost half the Australian population locked down since last week due to clusters mostly of the delta variant of the coronavirus that is thought to be more contagious.Several cities in Queensland state and the Northern Territory came out of lockdown on Friday. The Queensland capital Brisbane and the neighboring Moreton Bay area would remain in lockdown until Saturday after a mother and daughter tested positive in Brisbane.The biggest cluster is in Sydney where 31 new cases were reported on Friday, the largest daily tally of the current emergency. Sydney’s two-week lockdown is due to end on July 9.Australia has been relatively successful in containing clusters throughout the pandemic, registering fewer than 31,000 cases in a population of 26 million and 910 deaths total.The higher infection rate of the delta variant has exposed the vulnerability of the Australian population in which, according to government data, only 8% are fully vaccinated.Morrison said a vaccine would be made available to every Australian who wanted one by the end of the year.The government has proposed fewer restrictions for vaccinated people, such allowing them to quarantine at home for a week after traveling overseas instead of two weeks in a hotel for the unvaccinated.“A lot of people say: ‘Well, why should I get vaccinated?’ They go: ‘There’s not much COVID around in Australia. I’ve got more chance of, I don’t know, getting run over by a car than catching COVID,’” Morrison said.“We’re prisoners of our own success in this. If you get vaccinated, you get to change how we live as a country. You get to change how you live in Australia. And I think this is a very powerful message,” he added.Australia introduced extraordinarily tough border restrictions in March 2020 that prevent Australian citizens and permanent residents from leaving the country as well as foreigners from arriving except under limited circumstances.