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China says relations with Australia are in 'a sharp downturn' -- and it's all Canberra's fault

November 18, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian attends a press conference in Beijing on Aug. 28, 2020. (Photo by Kyodo News via Getty Images)

China has declared Australia must take the blame for "a sharp downturn" in relations between the two countries, with a Foreign Ministry spokesman saying all responsibility is on "some people in Australia (who) tend to regard China's development as a threat."

Hong Kong (CNN)China has declared Australia must take the blame for "a sharp downturn" in relations between the two countries, with a Foreign Ministry spokesman saying all responsibility is on "some people in Australia (who) tend to regard China's development as a threat. "

Relations between Australia and China have been frosty for years, but the situation deteriorated rapidly after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in April called for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Chinese government dubbed Morrison's proposal "political manipulation. " From May onwards, lucrative Australian exports to China including wine, barley and beef have faced obstacles from China -- including high tariffs, anti-subsidy investigations and lengthy delays clearing customs.

In an interview with Australian media published Sunday, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said the "ball is very much in China's court" to resolve trade tensions, adding that he hoped the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement in the past week would help resolve the dispute between the two governments.

Zhao described three areas in which Australia had displeased the Chinese government -- one of which was Morrison's decision to call for an international inquiry.

"These practices have grossly interfered in China's internal affairs and seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people," Zhao said.

Zhao's comments came after Australia and Japan agreed "in principle" to a landmark defense treaty between the two countries, during a meeting in Tokyo between Prime Minister Morrison and Japanese leader Yoshihide Suga.

Birmingham said Wednesday the deal should have "no bearing" on Australia's relationship with China.

However it is the latest in a series of moves by Australia and Japan to deepen their military ties, with the Chinese government doubling down on its territorial claims in the East and South China Seas, as well as increasing military drills targeted at Taiwan.

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