Sanya, Hainan Island
Fresh off the plane Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s first press conference in tropical Hainan was dominated by questions on North Korea where the regime is making stronger than usual threats about using its burgeoning nuclear arsenal on the United States or it’s allies Japan and South Korea.
It’s not just North Korea that could derail her, as a fresh outbreak of the deadly bird flu which has now claimed six lives around Shanghai where the PM is scheduled to stay Sunday night and spend most of the day on Monday. Rumours are beginning to circulate that the seriousness of the situation has been covered up by Chinese authorities in what could be a tragic replay of the SARS virus a decade ago.
The PM mapped out the priorities of her China trip, a country she described as “absolutely critical” to Australia. She said the focus of visit would be: imporving high level strategic contacts, improving trade and investment, furthering other core relations in revenue, people links and education as well as cooperation on climate changes and carbon pricing.
Gillard also promised to raise the thorny issue of Tibet, one of the “3 Ts” along with Taiwan and Tiananmen Square (site of the June 4, 1989 massacre of hundreds of people) that are best avoided with Chinese leaders. More than 100 Tibetans have set themsleves on fire in the past 2 years in protest against Chinese rule and its crushing of Tibetan culture.
Gillard and first bloke Tim Mathieson were greeted on the tarmac of Sanya airport by the vice Governor of Hainan province and the Chinese Ambassador to Australia Chen Yuming. She was handed flowers by two young Chinese girls and greeted by a military guard.
Immediately after speaking with the media Gillard’s motorcade headed to Bo’ao about two hours away where she will attend the Bo’ao Forum for Asia and meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and a bevy other other world and business leaders.