The Australian government expressed its concern over China’s activities in disputed islands in the South China Sea.
While Australia claimed that their government is not taking any sides in the matter especially that they are not a claimant of the South China Sea, they stressed in the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper they released a few weeks ago, that they wish to “build a region where disputes are solved peacefully and in accordance with international law.”
“We have urged all claimants to refrain from actions that could increase tension and have called for a halt to land reclamation and construction activities. Australia is particularly concerned by the unprecedented pace and scale of China’s activities,” the paper read.
It added that “Australia opposes the use of disputed features and artificial structures in the South China Sea for military purposes. We support the resolution of differences through negotiation based on international law.”
The Australian government also stressed that all claimants should clarify the full nature and extent of the claims in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“The Government reaffirms its position that the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling on the Philippines South China Sea Arbitration is final and binding on both parties,” it read.
Meanwhile, China hits back at Australia calling its foreign policy paper “irresponsible” since it is not part of the South China Sea disputes.
“It has been proven by facts that interference from countries outside the region can only complicate the South China Sea issue and will be of no help to regional peace and stability,” Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian said in a press briefing.
In an article by South China Morning Post, Australia’s foreign minister from 2012-2013, Bob Carr, said that Australia as a neutral country should remain neutral and avoid making it seem like it is taking sides.
Carr is now the director of the Australia-China Relations Institute at the University of Technology Sydney.