June 8, 2018 / 6:05 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Australia asks China to approve visit by foreign minister amid tension

* Australia-China ties sour in recent months

* Australia accused China of meddling in Canberra's affairs (Adds analyst comments, details of ties; paragraph 4 onwards)

By Colin Packham

SYDNEY, June 8 (Reuters) - Australia has asked China to approve a visit by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, a spokeswoman said on Friday, amid heightened diplomatic tension between the two trading partners.

Bishop is set to travel to China this year for the latest in a series of annual meetings held between the foreign ministers of the two countries since 2014.

"We are discussing dates with China for our next foreign security dialogue," Lauren Gianoli, a spokeswoman for Bishop, told Reuters.

A source familiar with Australia's diplomatic approach said China would normally respond to the approach "within weeks".

Analysts said China was unlikely to formally reject the proposal, but could sit on it indefinitely, making a meeting unfeasible.

They say China's response will show if it intends to keep up its frosty approach to Australia, triggered by Canberra's accusations that Beijing was meddling in its domestic affairs.

"It would be huge if Bishop does not travel to China this year, it would mark an escalation in the current diplomatic tensions," said James Laurenceson, an expert on the two nations' economic ties, at the University of Technology in Sydney.

Less than a year ago, Australia-Chinese relations were riding high, with two-way trade last year worth a record A$170 billion ($130 billion).

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's accusation of Chinese meddling, however, threatens those unchecked economic ties.

Six Australian wine companies, including Treasury Wine Estates Ltd, the world's biggest-listed winemaker, have faced delays getting products through Chinese customs this year. (Reporting by Colin Packham Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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