THE threats of war and terrorism are on the rise in Asia and will be the focus of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s meetings in Laos over the next two days.
Today in Vientiane Mr Turnbull said he was looking forward to all the countries in the region working more closely together although China’s aggression is causing tensions with southeast Asian nations over the South China Sea, and with Japan over the East China Sea.
But Mr Turnbull described the “relative harmony” of the region and dismissed the idea that Australia would be forced to pick sides between China and the United States, which has been testing China over its militarisation of the South China Sea Islands.“The US is obviously our very closest strategic partner but we have very close relations with China,” he said.
“I know it’s fashionable to say you’ve got to choose between China and the US. The reality is these are both enormous powers in every respect.”
Speaking to reporters in Vientiane’s oldest temple, Wat Sisaket, Mr Turnbull also conceded that Australia’s ongoing economic growth was due in part to Government spending, saying the rollout of the NBN was an important infrastructure investment.
“BLOODY GOOD BLEND”
Mr Turnbull started his day full of beans as he tasted his own special coffee blend.
He had a big grin on his mug as he launched the Mekong Angel Investor Network in Vientiane, Laos at a local cafe on Wednesday.
One of Australia’s most senior officials described the blend as “exquisite”, while a distinguished and quite good-looking journalist said it was “bloody good”.
A source close to the Prime Minister said it was quite an agile drink, “decisive” with a “sensible centre”.The official description was “coffee blossom aroma, tropical fruit sweetness, well-balanced aftertaste”.
Naked Espresso was opened by ‘Pop’ — a Sydney-trained barista who wanted to bring a bit of Aussie hipster to the Laotian capital.
Mr Turnbull also attended a scholarship ceremony and will later visit a local wat, or temple.
After this morning’s froth, Mr Turnbull will get down to the serious business of the East Asia Summit and the Association of South East Asian Nations meetings.
He plans to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key for talks.Mr Turnbull is also set to highlight economic integration and continuing co-operation on counter terrorism strategies in the region as he heads into a full day of talks and meetings in Laos.
Arriving in the Laos capital on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Turnbull said two “disturbing events” overnight — missile tests in North Korea and a call by the Islamic State group to attack Australians “wherever you find them” — highlighted the need for leaders to focus on national security over the next few days at the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.At the summit tensions over the South China Sea continues to be a focus of attention, with Indonesia calling for unity.
In a bilateral meeting with his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday night both leaders discussed the need for all claimant countries to exercise restraint.
Later will be one of the traditional “funny shirts” photos with the leaders, which we can only hope is as hilarious as classic APEC moments.