South China Sea: Tensions SOAR as Australia vs Beijing shots threaten coal industry

South China Sea: Military exercises ‘must continue’ says expert

Relations between the two countries have soured this year over the coronavirus pandemic and territory disputes over the South China Sea. Australia has joined in with US and India in combat drills in the dispute waters, as well as led calls for an International inquiry into China’s role in the coronavirus pandemic. Now, the Australian Prime Minister claimed on Tuesday China had effectively banned coal imported from their country in favour of Mongolia, Russia and Indonesia. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson has rubbished Australia’s claims, and accused them of “playing the victim”.

Chinese state media outlet the Global Times reported Beijing had introduced a new policy banning coal imports from Australia.

Australia’s coal exports to China are worth a staggering $14 billion, with the ban curbing Canberra’s trading value to its biggest partner.

China has imposed the measures reportedly over Australia’s challenge to Beijing over territory claims in the South China Sea, along with their stance on foreign integration and coronavirus.

But the Global Times article appeared to have been removed from the website as of writing.

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Mr Morrison, speaking at a press conference with trade minister Simon Birmingham, responded to the Global Times report yesterday.

Mr Morrison said he wants clarification from Beijing over the reports, but added: “We see these reports and obviously are again deeply troubled by them.

“They, if true, would indicate discriminatory trade practices being deployed by Chinese authorities and we would urge them to rule that out swiftly, and demonstrate that they are continuing to operate in a manner consistent with the type of market principles they committed to as part of their membership of the World Trade Organisation and through their free trade agreement.”

The Prime Minister then rebuffed accusations Australia’s Government was souring relations with Beijing, saying it was right to stand up for its sovereignty.

Later on, Wang Wenbin, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said he was “not aware” any ban on Australian coal, but did not deny one was in place.

He then blasted Australia for playing the victim with the accusations of a ban on coal, listing of a series of grievances against Canberra.

Mr Wang said: “Some people from Australia have been playing victims while blaming and alluding China, which is not only misleading but in fact aimed to shift blames and is utterly unacceptable.

“Over the years, Australia has constantly politicised issues of economy and trade, investment or even scientific technologies, run counter to the principle of market economy, and international economic and trade rules, taken discriminatory measures against Chinese enterprises and headed further down the wrong path.”

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Australia has also been fierce in its defence of the South China Sea, and rubbished Beijing’s sovereignty claims in July this year.

Last month saw Australian Navy ships join US, Japanese and Indian naval fleets for military drills in the disputed waters.

Taiwan also called on Australia for assistance defending itself from Chinese “expansionism” earlier this month, with Foreign Minister Joseph Wu urging to protect against “real prospect of China launching a military attack against Taiwan”.

Taiwan and Australia have also been in tentative trade agreement negotiations, which has angered Beijing.

The reported coal ban is the latest measure taken by Beijing against Canberra in their wake of their calls for an international inquiry in to the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this year, China slammed a block on imports of Australian wine, timber, barley, beef, lobster and lamb, which is worth an estimated $20 billion.

An 80 percent tariff was also introduced on Australian barley imports by Beijing earlier this year.

November saw a ban on seafoods from the country and a staggering 212 percent tariff on Australian wine.

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