A bipartisan group of Australian Members of Parliament will visit Taiwan next week, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Saturday.
Albanese said the "backbench" delegation visiting Taiwan was not a "government visit." The prime minister added that he would not be joining the five-day tour, which begins on Sunday.
China frequently bristles at Western countries sending delegations to Taiwan, a self-ruled island Beijing considers to be its territory. The visit also comes as Albanese's administration tries to patch relations with China, which have soured in recent years.
At a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit last month in Indonesia, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Albanese and called for better relations, raising hopes of improved ties between the two major trading partners.
The Weekend Australian newspaper reported that plans for the the trip were kept secret to stop Chinese diplomats in Australia from lobbying for its cancellation.
On Saturday, Albanese reiterated Australia's bipartisan support of the "one-China" policy, which holds that Beijing is China's only legitimate government.
"There remains a bipartisan position when it comes to China and when it comes to support for the status quo on Taiwan," Albanese told reporters.
What will be discussed during the visit?
Australia, like most other countries, does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. However, it has expressed concern over China's recent military pressure on the island.
The six-member delegation includes members of the center-left ruling Labor Party, as well as the conservative opposition Liberal Party and its ally, the National Party.
The group includes former leader of the National Party Barnaby Joyce, a spokesperson for Joyce told Reuters news agency.
Scott Buchholz, a conservative MP who is in the delegation, told the Weekend Australian, "just because we are friends with Taiwan does not mean we can't be friends with China."
The delegation is expected to meet Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu. Issues on the agenda include security, trade, agriculture and indigenous affairs, the newspaper reported.
A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said Australian politicians regularly traveled to Taiwan before the pandemic and the first such visit in three years "represents a resumption of that activity."
tg/wmr (AFP, Reuters)