SYDNEY • Australia has asked China to approve a visit by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, a request that should provide an indication of just how strained ties between the two trading partners have become.
Ms Bishop hopes to go to China this year for the latest in a series of annual meetings the two countries' foreign ministers have held since 2014. "We are discussing dates with China for our next foreign security dialogue," said a spokesman for Ms Bishop yesterday.
It is believed Australia made the suggestion late last month.
Analysts said China was unlikely to formally reject the proposal, but could sit on it indefinitely, making a meeting unfeasible.
Ties have been strained over accusations that China was meddling in Australia's domestic affairs.
"It would be huge if Bishop does not travel to China this year, it would mark an escalation in the diplomatic tensions," said Dr James Laurenceson, an expert on the two nations' economic ties.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Hua Chunying said she did not have any information on a visit by Ms Bishop, but welcomed better ties.
"China has always welcomed and is willing to develop friendly exchanges and cooperation with countries around the world on the basis of equality and mutual respect," Ms Hua said on Thursday.
Australia says it wants to smooth what it calls "irritants"in the bilateral relationship, though analysts said it is pushing ahead with policies that are unlikely to be well received in China.