CANBERRA, March 2 (Xinhua) -- Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating has said Australia has the chance to strengthen ties with China when the government releases its much-anticipated Foreign Policy White Paper later in the year.
Following Wednesday's announcement from Foreign Minister Julie Bishop that she was recalling all 113 of Australia's foreign diplomats to help the government shape a new, modern foreign policy, Keating said it was a wonderful opportunity to further embrace China with greater "strategic regard."
Speaking to Fairfax Media on Thursday, Keating described the last two decades of Australian foreign policy as a "waste," saying that as China was a major country in the Asian region, it was important to realize the nation's rise as "completely legitimate."
"China ... looks to Australia as a supplier of much of its raw materials and therefore its development," Keating said, adding that "how much iron ore has it got to buy before we treat it with strategic regard? "
All 113 of Australia's foreign diplomats will attend a two-day summit in Canberra next month, meeting with Bishop, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Trade Minister Steve Ciobo.
Keating said it would be "a valuable opportunity" for the government to discuss and adopt a more "positive approach" to China in the Asia-Pacific region.
The former Labor prime minister noted that if the government had acted earlier in consideration to China's rise, Australia might have been able to take earlier advantage of greater opportunities in a number of fields, including trade and tourism.
"If Australia were to have a positive strategic policy of engagement with China rather than a negative one, our influence on China's behavior would be much greater than it is today," Keating said.