Australian FM off to Indonesia, China after spy row

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will hold talks with Indonesia on Thursday to help repair ties strained by a spying row and draw up a code of ethics to govern relations.

The nation's top diplomat will also visit China, where relations are likewise on edge after Canberra's criticism of Beijing's newly-declared air defence identification zone.

"The minister will lead a high level delegation to Jakarta for broad-ranging discussions about the bilateral relationship, following President (Susilo Bambang) Yudhoyono's recent statement," her office said.

Reports last month that Australian spies tried to tap the phones of Mr Yudhoyono, his wife and his inner circle in 2009 sparked one of the worst diplomatic crises between the two strategic allies in years.

Jakarta reacted furiously, ending cooperation on military exercises and in the key area of people-smuggling while recalling its ambassador from Canberra.

Tensions calmed after Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott sent Mr Yudhoyono a letter of explanation, with the two leaders agreeing that top-level envoys would discuss protocols and a code of ethics to govern relations that were "clear, fair and abided to".

Mr Abbott has also suggested a security roundtable to build trust.

While Ms Bishop will meet with her counterpart Marty Natalegawa, Australian Defence Minister David Johnston admitted the damage would not be immediately repaired.

"It will take some time for current issues in bilateral relations to be worked through, but they will be resolved in time," Mr Johnston said.

"As defence minister I will do my best to contribute to that by being a frequent visitor to Indonesia. Building trust is essential and that can only be done through personal contact and mutual respect."

From Jakarta, Ms Bishop will travel to China, primarily for the annual Foreign and Strategic Dialogue with counterpart Wang Yi, which will focus on a bilateral agenda and regional and global issues of common concern.

The visit comes after Beijing reacted angrily last month to Ms Bishop summoning its ambassador to voice opposition to the East China Sea air zone, with China demanding Australia correct its "mistake" immediately.

Canberra refused, proclaiming a right to speak out where Australian interests were concerned.

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