China still concerned about Australia-US relationship
Stephen McDonnell, China Correspondent
Australia's Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, says his first visit to Beijing has been dominated by China's concerns over Australia's military ties with the United States.
During his Australia visit in November last year, US president Barack Obama confirmed up to 2,500 Marines will be stationed in Australia by 2017, under a new agreement announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Although China was briefed by Australia before the announcement, officials in Beijing questioned the appropriateness of the deal, and suggested China would never enter into such an alliance against Australia.
Senator Carr says during three high-level meetings - including with Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi and Lieutenant General Wei Fenghe, deputy chief of the general staff - concerns were raised over the issue.
"I think their view can be expressed as in the words of one of the three I spoke to - I'm sure it was the foreign minister - that the time for Cold War alliances has long since passed," Senator Carr said.
"Australia's view, of course, is that the American presence in the Asia Pacific has helped underpin stability there."
As well as having to defend the country's defence arrangements, Senator Carr raised recent controversial consular cases involving Chinese-Australian businesspeople who have ended up in jail there.
Though Senator Carr did not single out particular cases, he is thought to have mentioned the three jailed Chinese-Australian businesspeople Charlotte Chou, Matthew Ng and Stern Hu.
In response, the Minister was told that because Beijing does not recognise dual citizenship Chinese-Australians can sometimes be treated as being simply Chinese when it comes to facing the courts there.
Later, the Foreign Minister will be given entry to the highly-guarded leadership compound Zhongnanhai where he will meet the man destined to become the country's number two leader Li Keqiang.
There, he is hoping to push along a China-Australia free trade deal.
The trip is Senator Carr's first to visit Beijing as foreign minister.