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U.S. Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell. Source: AFP.
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  • The Biden administration has said that China making efforts to normalise its relationship with Australia is a precondition to Washington taking measures to improve its own ties with Beijing
  • Kurt Campbell — the U.S. president’s Indo-Pacific coordinator — said China’s “economic coercion” of Australia had been a subject in every meeting between U.S. and Chinese officials
  • It comes ahead of the first high-level, in-person contact between the U.S. and China under the new Biden administration on March 18 in Alaska
  • The relationship between Australia and China has been tense over the last year after Canberra pushed for an international investigation into the origin of COVID-19
  • Beijing responded with trade reprisals on Australian coal, wine, barley, live seafood, beef and timber

As the Biden administration opens its first talks with Beijing, Australia’s frayed relationship with China will likely be on the agenda.

Specifically, the U.S. government has said China making efforts to normalise its relationship with Australia would be a precondition to Washington improving its own relations with Beijing.

In an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald, Kurt Campbell — the U.S. president’s Indo-Pacific coordinator — said China’s “economic coercion” of Australia had been a subject in every meeting between U.S. and Chinese officials, and “will be underscored in interactions in Anchorage later this week.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to meet with China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi and State Councillor Wang Yi on March 18 in Alaska, in what will be the first high-level, in-person contact between the two countries under the new Biden administration.

“We have made clear that the U.S. is not prepared to improve relations in a bilateral and separate context at the same time that a close and dear ally is being subjected to a form of economic coercion,” Campbell said in the interview published today.

He also said that Biden had told Prime Minister Scott Morrison during a Quad meeting on Friday — which also included Japan and India — “that we stood together on this.”

“We are fully aware of what’s going on and we are not prepared to take substantial steps to improve relations until those policies are addressed and a more normal interplay between Canberra and Beijing is established,” Campbell continued.

The relationship between Australia and China has been tense over the last year after Canberra pushed for an international investigation into the origin of COVID-19, to which Beijing responded with trade reprisals on Australian coal, wine, barley, live seafood, beef and timber.

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