07 September 2016
by Philip Wen

Malcolm Turnbull condemns North Korea, Philippines' leader on the way out of G20

Jack Ma welcomes Malcolm Turnbull to Alibaba's headquarters in Hangzhou, China on Tuesday.

Hangzhou: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has condemned North Korea for its fresh round of "dangerous, destabilising and provocative" ballistic missile tests, as he jetted into Laos on Tuesday for an East Asia Summit likely to be dominated by regional security tensions.

Diplomatic ructions erupted before the summit even began, after US President Barack Obama cancelled a meeting with his Philippine counterpart Rodrigo Duterte, after the firebrand politician called the US leader a "son of a whore" and demanded he show restraint in questioning the extrajudicial killing of drug dealers in the Philippines. Mr Duterte, who took office in June, later "expressed regret" over his statements.

The unusual rift between the two usually cordial military allies clouds the picture in the disputed South China Sea, an issue on which Washington has so far consistently failed to unify support across ASEAN members against Chinese assertiveness. The previous administration in Manila lodged a case with the international tribunal in The Hague which went in its favour but Mr Duterte has signalled greater willingness to negotiate directly with China.

Speaking to reporters after the conclusion of the G20 summit in Hangzhou on Tuesday, Mr Turnbull described Mr Duterte's remarks as "intemperate" but stressed the Philippines was "a very important part of the whole East Asian security dialogue".

On the North Korean missile launches, which landed into the sea off its east coast on Monday while world leaders met at the G20 summit, Mr Turnbull said it was another step in a "pattern of conduct that is plainly reckless". The increasingly volatile hermit state has stepped up its regime of nuclear and ballistic missile tests, prompting South Korean plans to install US missile shield technology in defence.

"We condemn utterly the dangerous, destablising and provocative conduct of North Korea," Mr Turnbull said.

In Hangzhou on Tuesday, Mr Turnbull visited the headquarters of e-commerce giant Alibaba where he met billionaire Jack Ma, one of China's richest men and most recognisable business identities.

The pair witnessed the signing of an agreement between Austrade and Alibaba to help more Australian businesses get their products in front of a combined 430 million users on the group's Tmall and Taobao Marketplace platforms.

Alibaba has identified Australia as a key market in its global expansion plans, setting up a country-specific online "pavilion" for Australian brands in 2014. It is opening a local office in Melbourne later this year.

Mr Ma, who has been the corporate face of the G20 summit hosted in his home city, said Australia was an "important market for Alibaba".

"We think we need to buy more agriculture and farmer and seafood products," he said, addressing the prime minister in English. "We think Chinese people will love it."