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'Appropriate' for MPs to meet Dalai Lama

July 6, 2009

Sydney Morning Herald - July 5, 2009

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith says it is entirely appropriate for an
Australian parliamentary delegation to meet the Dalai Lama despite
objections from China.

Mr Smith said Chinese officials had made a low level condemnation of a
meeting between the Australian parliamentary delegation and the Dalai Lama
in India last week.

"My attitude is quite straightforward and clear. This is a reflection of
Australia's democratic strengths," he told the Nine Network on Sunday.

"It is entirely appropriate for a parliamentary delegation to visit India
and entirely appropriate for a parliamentary delegation to make contact with
the Dalai Lama if it so chooses."

Mr Smith said Australia had made strong calls for China to engage in
dialogue with the Dalai Lama and strong remarks about Chinese human rights
abuses in Tibet.

He said Australia had also made the point to China that it needed to be more
transparent in explaining the strategic justification for the enhancement of
its military forces.

That follows comments from former Labor prime minister Paul Keating who
suggested the government, through the new Defence White Paper, was being
excessively defensive towards China.

Mr Smith said Australia wasn't being defensive at all and enjoyed a
positive, productive and forward-looking relationship with China.

"On the question of China and its military modernisation... the Australian
government, including the prime minister and I, have made the point to China
that as China emerges as a growing economy and as an economic power, of
course its military capacity and its military deployments and its military
assets will increase," he said.

"That is a natural thing. What we do need to have more from China is what is
the particularly strategic underpinning of this military enhancement."

Mr Smith said China talked of emerging into a harmonious environment while
Australia talked in terms of China being a responsible international
stakeholder.

"We are confident that will occur but we are not starry-eyed about our
relationship with China. There are a range of things where we have differing
views with China including human rights issues," he said.

c 2009 AAP
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