Australia’s ex-PM warns Jerusalem move would worry Indonesia

Former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks during the fifth Our Ocean Conference in Nusadua, Indonesia's resort island of Bali, on October 29, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 30 October 2018
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Australia’s ex-PM warns Jerusalem move would worry Indonesia

  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday no decision had been made yet on the embassy’s location
  • Turnbull also said Australia should stick with a policy of more than 40 years that its embassy should be in Tel Aviv

CANBERRA, Australia: A former Australian prime minister has warned the government to expect a negative reaction from Indonesia if Australia follows the United States by shifting its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull spoke to reporters after meeting Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on the tourist island of Bali on Monday to discuss a bilateral free trade deal.
“The president expressed to me ... the very serious concern held in Indonesia about the prospect of the Australian Embassy in Israel being moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” Turnbull told Australian Broadcasting Corp. in an interview aired on Tuesday. “There’s no question that were that move to occur, it would be met with a very negative reaction in Indonesia.”
“This is after all the largest ... majority-Muslim country in the world, so we have to be very clear-eyed about that and we have to take into account Australia’s national interest and our interests in the region when we ... consider decisions like this,” he added.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday no decision had been made yet on the embassy’s location.
Morrison sent his predecessor to represent Australia at a climate change conference in Bali because of Turnbull’s close personal rapport with the Indonesian leader, who had been disappointed that Turnbull’s government colleagues replaced him in August in response to poor opinion polling.
Turnbull said he was confident that the free trade deal between Australia, a nation of 25 million people, and Indonesia, a near-neighbor with a population of more than 260 million people, would be signed within weeks.
Turnbull also said Australia should stick with a policy of more than 40 years that its embassy should be in Tel Aviv.
Morrison, a long-time ally of Turnbull who had argued against replacing him in a leadership ballot of government lawmakers, floated the idea of shifting the embassy days before a by-election in a Sydney electorate with a large Jewish population.
The government lost the by-election, forced by Turnbull’s resignation from Parliament, and its single-seat majority in the House of Representatives.
“Australia will always make our decisions on our foreign policy based on our interests and we’ll do that as a sovereign nation,” Morrison told reporters.
We’ll consult, we’ll listen to others, but at the end of the day ... I will always put our interests first,” he added.
The Trump administration turned its back on decades of US policy last December by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and in May, it moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv. The decision angered the Muslim world and was a setback for Palestinian aspirations for statehood. Palestinians see east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as the capital of a future independent state.
Morrison said Australia remained committed to finding a two-state solution.
When Morrison became prime minister, he made his first overseas trip to Indonesia, an ardent supporter of the Palestinian cause, in a sign of the importance Australia places on the bilateral relationship.


US Navy chief does not rule out sending aircraft carrier through Taiwan Strait

Updated 3 min 17 sec ago
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US Navy chief does not rule out sending aircraft carrier through Taiwan Strait

  • Aircraft carriers, typically equipped with about 80 aircraft and crews of about 5,000, are key to the US military’s ability to project power globally
  • The US Navy continues to pass through waters in the South China Sea that Beijing considers its territory

TOKYO: The US Navy has not ruled out sending an aircraft carrier through the Taiwan Strait, despite military technology advances by China that pose a greater threat to US warships than ever before, the chief of US naval operations said on Friday.
Washington sent ships through the strategic waterway three times last year as it makes more frequent transits of the strait that separates Taiwan from the Chinese mainland, but it has not dispatched a carrier in more than 10 years.
During that time, China has modernized its forces with missiles designed to strike enemy ships.
“We don’t really see any kind of limitation on whatever type of ship could pass through those waters,” Admiral John Richardson told reporters in the Japanese capital, when asked if more advanced Chinese weapons posed too big a risk.
“We see the Taiwan Strait as another (stretch of) international waters, so that’s why we do the transits.”
Aircraft carriers, typically equipped with about 80 aircraft and crews of about 5,000, are key to the US military’s ability to project power globally.
On Tuesday, a US official told Reuters the United States was closely watching Chinese intentions toward Taiwan as advances in military technology give Beijing’s forces greater capability to occupy an island it considers a breakaway province.
In a report, the US Defense Intelligence Agency called Taiwan the “primary driver” for China’s military modernization.
Richardson, who visited China before traveling to Japan, said he told his Chinese counterparts the United States was opposed to any unilateral action by Beijing or Taipei.
He also urged China to stick to international rules during unplanned naval encounters at sea.
That request came after a Chinese destroyer approached the USS Decatur in October and forced it to change course as it challenged Chinese territorial claims in the contested South China Sea with a freedom of navigation operation (FONOP).
“We have made this very clear that this was an excursion, a departure from the normal adherence to those rules and we would hope that behavior in the future would be much more consistent,” Richardson said.
“We should not see each other as a threatening presence in these waters.”
The US Navy continues to pass through waters in the South China Sea that Beijing considers its territory.
On Jan 7, a US guided-missile destroyer sailed within 12 miles of a Chinese-occupied island, prompting Beijing’s rebuke that it had “gravely infringed upon China’s sovereignty.”
China, which claims almost all of the strategic waterway, says its intentions are peaceful. Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have competing claims.