The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned that escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine could have an implications for Australia “because others are looking at how we respond”.
It came as Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne also labelled a recent pact between Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping that their friendship “had no limits” as concerning.
Senator Payne, Mr Blinken, Japan’s Yoshimasa Hayashi and India’s Subrahmanyam Jaishankar met for a formal quadrilateral foreign ministers’ meeting in Melbourne on Friday afternoon.
Mr Hayashi said that during talks, it was agreed they would work together to counter challenges of maritime order posed by China in the East and South China seas.
Speaking at a press conference afterwards, Mr Blinken said the fact he was in Australia while there was a crisis going on in the Ukraine “only underscores our commitment to staying focused on the Indo Pacific”.
“Indeed, these efforts are part of one whole,” he said.
“Let me just take one second to share why what may seem to be half a world away from here matters here in Australia, in the Indo Pacific.
”What’s at stake is not simply as important as it is Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty independence, but very basic principles.
“Principles like one country cannot simply change the borders of another by force.
“Principles like one country can’t simply dictate to another, its choices, its policies, with whom it will associate.
“If we allow those principles to be challenged with impunity, even if it’s half a world away in Europe, that will have an impact here as well.”
Senator Payne was asked what she thought about the recent statement released by Russia and China’s leaders after they met on the eve of the Beijing Olympics about a “new era” in the global order.
“Where we see the sort of statement that was issued by the presidents after their bilateral meeting, it is concerning because it doesn’t present or represent a global order that squares with those ambitions for freedom and openness and sovereignty and the protection of territorial integrity,” she said.
The Quad ministers had been at another meeting earlier in the day with Prime Minister Scott Morrison where concerns about China’s use of so-called ‘debt trap diplomacy’ in the Indo-Pacific were also discussed.
It involves providing loans to developing nations they may not be able to manage.
If the loan fails China, or the lender, is able to take control of assets the loan was backed by.
The importance of providing alternative finance or aid options so nations had choice was also brought up.
“I think we share concerns that in recent years China has been acting more aggressively, a whole lot more aggressively in the region,” Mr Blinken said at the beginning of the talks with Mr Morrison and other leaders.
“The relationship for all of us with China is among the most consequential and most complex of any that we have.”