US, Australia open talks focused on China

WASHINGTON: The United States and Australia on Monday (Jul 27) opened top-level talks in which they are expected to seek a common front amid soaring tensions between Washington and Beijing.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark Esper welcomed to Washington their Australian counterparts, Marise Payne and Linda Reynolds, for two days of talks that will include a news conference on Tuesday.

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The annual talks come as President Donald Trump's administration takes an increasingly hard line against China on issues from defence to human rights to trade.

READ: Commentary: US-China rivalry will see a long and bumpy journey

The United States last week ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, alleging espionage, and Pompeo declared that decades of Western engagement had built a "Frankenstein" Beijing.

Australia has fought alongside the United States in every major conflict since World War I and its right-leaning government has largely backed the Trump administration's approach.

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Australia recently followed the United States in rejecting Beijing's sweeping claims in the South China Sea and has backed calls led by Pompeo for an international inquiry into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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