US Shows Bipartisan Support to Australian Ally in Response to Chinese Embassy Threats

May 8, 2020 Updated: May 8, 2020

In a show of bipartisan support, members of the United States Congress sent a letter on May 7 reaffirming its alliance with Australia and condemning the recent threats made by the Canberra-based Chinese Ambassador.

Members from both chambers and across the political divide wrote of the country’s “mateship” and reaffirmed the “strong support for the U.S.–Australia alliance.”

Addressed to Australian Ambassador Arthur Sinodinos, the letter said it is only “natural” that Australia seeks an objective and independent review into the origins of the virus, with the members of congress saying they “could not agree more.”

The United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote on Twitter on May 7:

“The US stands w/ our Australian friends & allies in the face of #CCP threats. I’ve joined Senate & House members in supporting #Australia after PRC Amb. Cheng suggested economic retaliation after it called for an investigation into the origins of #COVID19.”

The letter was signed by 27 members from both the House of Representatives and Senate and included senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

They cited comments from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong.

In calling for an investigation Morrison said, “We’d like the world to be safer when it comes to viruses … I would hope that any other nation, be it China or anyone else, would share that objective.”

The letter said the response from Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye in an interview with the Australian Financial Review on April 26, was “deeply disturbing” and that they “unequivocally opposed this behavior.”

When Cheng was questioned on calling for an investigation, he responded by claiming: “It’s not in your interests. It won’t bring you respect and it’s detrimental to global efforts.”

Chinese Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye
Chinese Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye speaks to the media during a press conference at the Ambassador’s residence in Canberra, Australia, on Dec. 19, 2019. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

When pressed on whether China would stop buying Australian iron ore, coal, or gas, he said there would be no boycott, but the Chinese public was “frustrated, dismayed, and disappointed” with Australia.

“Maybe the ordinary people will think why they should not drink Australian wine or eat Australian beef?”

The letter from the U.S. members of Congress said these comments insinuated Australia may face “economic retaliation.”

“This incident is part of a broader and concerning pattern from the Chinese government,” wrote the lawmakers. “As we continue to confront this deadly disease and its consequences, we will be faced with many tough decisions, including those that may arise from the Chinese government’s continued lack of cooperation and transparency.”

“One decision that is not difficult is to always stand with our Australian mates. No matter the external pressure or coercion, we will always have Australia’s back, just as Australia has always had ours.”

Representative Mike Gallagher (R-WI) wrote on Twitter on May 7:

“Not for the first time, the CCP has issued thinly-disguised threats against our ally Australia. Earlier today, I wrote to Amb @A_Sinodinos alongside my colleagues  @RepJoeCourtney, @SenatorRisch and @SenatorMenendez to make clear the US always supports our mates.”

Signatories of the letter are:

Senator Jim Risch (R-ID)

Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ)

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI)

Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT)

Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO)

Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD)

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)

Senator Chris Coons (R-DE)

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI)

Senator David Perdue (R-GA)

Senator Todd Young (R-IN)

Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI)

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY)

Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA)

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK)

Rep. Ed Case (D-HI)

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN)

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA)

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ)

Rep. William Timmons (R-SC)

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA)

Rep. Ron Wright (R-KS)

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA)

Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX)

Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-CA)

Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH)