Australian PM says Beijing, Moscow banding together on Ukraine crisis

It is the third time in as many days that Mr Morrison has criticised the Chinese government's statements on Ukraine. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

CANBERRA (BLOOMBERG) - Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called on the Chinese government to condemn Russia's threats of violence against Ukraine for the third time this week, urging Beijing to denounce Moscow's actions.

Mr Morrison said Beijing and Moscow were "banding together" on the Ukraine crisis.

"We would expect all nations, all governments around the world to be denouncing what is taking place," he said in a speech to Parliament on Tuesday (Feb 15).

The United States and its European allies have been urging Russian President Vladimir Putin for weeks to pull back an estimated 130,000 troops massed near Ukraine border.

Mr Putin has repeatedly denied that Russia plans to attack Ukraine and focused on criticising a buildup of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) forces near his country's frontiers.

It is the third time in as many days that Mr Morrison has criticised the Chinese government's statements on Ukraine.

On Sunday he said Beijing was "chillingly silent" on the move by Russia to place troops along the border, then added on Monday that the Chinese government had not "stood with the rest of the world" on the issue.

The Australian leader was echoing comments from a Quad meeting of foreign ministers in Melbourne last week.

After the meeting, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the world's response to the Ukraine crisis was being watched by "others," in a pointed reference to China's expansive territorial claims in Asia.

Mr Morrison is due to face Australian voters before the end of May for a national election.

Ahead of the vote, he has been highlighting his government's approach to national security, and accusing the opposition Labor Party of not being strong enough towards Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Monday the Australian leader was "seeking selfish political gains" and that his remarks were "unethical and dangerous".

"We urge the Australian side to abandon the Cold War mentality and ideological bias and stop making belligerent rhetoric that will escalate the tensions," he said.

Relations between Australia and China have deteriorated in recent years.

After Morrison called for an international investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, Australian exports began to face obstacles in Chinese ports, including customs delays and high tariffs.

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