UPDATE 1- The Prime Minister of Australia says he is not part of a group of Australian MPs to visit Taiwan

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Saturday he would not be part of a group of federal politicians to travel to Taiwan for a five-day visit aimed at conveying Australia’s desire to maintain peace in the Indo-Pacific.

The group, which includes the Australian Labor Party and MPs from the opposition Liberal-National coalition, will fly to Taiwan on Sunday and is the first such delegation to visit there since 2019, The Australian newspaper reported on Saturday. Albanese on Saturday described the trip as a “backbench” visit to Taiwan, not a government-led one.

“It remains a bipartisan position when it comes to China and when it comes to supporting the status quo in Taiwan,” Albanese told reporters in the South Australian town of Renmark. Asked about the intentions of the itinerant politicians, Albanese said: “I have no idea, I don’t go, you should ask them.”

The group includes former National Party leader Barnaby Joyce, a spokesman for Joyce confirmed to Reuters on Saturday. Two Labor MPs are also said to be going. The group will reportedly meet Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, with the visitors having the support of Taiwan’s foreign ministry.

The trip – reportedly kept secret to prevent Chinese diplomats in Canberra from lobbying for its cancellation – is said to also include meetings on security, trade, agriculture and indigenous affairs. The visit to Democratic Taiwan, claimed by Beijing as Chinese territory, comes as Australia’s newly elected Labor government has taken steps to mend strained diplomatic relations with China.

Australia has clashed with China – its largest trading partner – over trade disputes and the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, amid a growing Chinese presence in the Pacific. However, Albanese met with President Xi Jinping last month on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Indonesia, raising expectations of closer bilateral relations.

China’s embassy in Australia last year denounced former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott as a “pleaser” after he condemned Chinese pressure against Taiwan when he visited the island in a personal capacity. Australia, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties to Taiwan, but has previously joined its ally the United States in expressing concern over Chinese pressure, particularly military pressure.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)

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