Probationary time for Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison ahead of the leaders’ meeting in Singapore

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Lee will greet Morrison, despite announcing Sunday that he has a “short break” until Friday, two days before restrictions on public gatherings are to be lifted.

“Most of the time I stay at home to read, experiment with photography apps, and sample food delivered to my door,” he wrote on Facebook.

“We look forward to going out again when restrictions ease.”

Morrison’s visit has added value as it is the first visit by executives to Singapore since the outbreak of the pandemic.

In March 2020, the couple held their last meeting of bilateral leaders via videoconference, signing a military training pact and announcing new agreements on digital cooperation and cybersecurity.

This time around, the agenda is likely to include regional issues such as strengthening China’s and Australia’s ties with ASEAN, and possibly discussing joint action to achieve lower emissions.

The resumption of international travel is expected to be another topic of conversation, but there is hardly anything tangible on this front as Australia’s vaccination rate is still extremely low and its doors to the world are very closed.

Morrison’s visit follows a meeting of the Chinese and ASEAN foreign ministers on Monday in Chongqing, China.

During the pandemic, the superpower displayed active personal diplomacy in the region, including numerous high-level meetings at home and abroad with Australia’s closest Southeast Asian neighbor, Indonesia. The latter was in Chongqing on Sunday between the envoy of Indonesian President Joko Widodo Luhut Binsar Panjayitan and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Since then, there have been no personal meetings between Australia and Indonesia at the level of leaders or ministers. Joko’s State Visit to Canberra in February 2020

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“It is good that the Prime Minister is visiting Singapore because senior Australian officials need to spend more time on the ground in Southeast Asia if they want to maintain regional relations during this time of new geopolitical competition,” said Ben Bland, Director the South East Asia program at the Lowy Institute.

“The pandemic has made travel difficult, but Zoom and Webex are not a substitute for face-to-face meetings in Southeast Asia – a fact that China has recognized through its intense personal diplomacy with the region over the past year.”

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