Australia called for an independent review Friday on the coronavirus pandemic origins to “prevent the next one” from happening.
“Australia … sees understanding the cause of this pandemic, not as a political issue, but as being essential,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the UN General Assembly.
Canberra’s support for a probe into the origins of the virus exacerbated its bilateral relations with China.
Morrison added: “We need to know so we can prevent this death and this calamity being visited upon the world again. That can be our only motivation.”
The two countries have witnessed relations spiraling down in the past two years also because of Australia joining the US-led Quad, a loose security alliance along with Japan and India to counter China’s expanding economic and military influence in the wider Asia-Pacific region.
“We must prevent future pandemics and Australia supports the calls for a stronger, more independent World Health Organization, with enhanced surveillance and pandemic response powers,” the Australian premier suggested. “And we also need to accelerate efforts to identify how COVID-19 first emerged.”
Morrison said the pandemic has “underscored the vital importance of international cooperation and coordination.”
“The patterns of cooperation that have sustained our prosperity and security for decades — they’re under increasing strain. And so are the institutions that have helped maintain that rules-based international order for over seven decades now,” he said.
Global strategic environment deteriorated
Morrison said the global strategic environment has “indeed deteriorated in many respects, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region where we live here in Australia.”
“The changes we face are many: tensions over territorial claims; rapid military modernization, foreign interference, cyber threats, disinformation and indeed, economic coercion,” said Morrison.
He said meeting such challenges “require cooperation and a common purpose among like-minded nations, and all who share that purpose of peace, stability and security — to enhance these as the outcomes that benefit all peoples from wherever they come and whatever their perspectives.”
“Australia’s interests are inextricably linked to an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific,” he said.
The prime minister said Australia “continues to work constructively on this goal” with the “Pacific family, ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) friends and through the Quad, with a practical agenda for peace, contribution and security in our region.”
He said countries should “pursue these interests in ways that are mutually respectful and support stability and security.”
“Because we want to maintain an open, rules-based international system that supports peace, prosperity, human dignity and the aspirations of all sovereign nations,” the Australian premier said in apparent reference to China.
“We must reinforce a sustainable rules-based order while ensuring it is also adaptable to the great power realities of our time,” he said, referring to the UN Convention on the Law of the Se, and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.