Asia South China Sea: Abbott warns China Australia ‘deplores’ unilateral actions in disputed...

South China Sea: Abbott warns China Australia ‘deplores’ unilateral actions in disputed seas

Australia  Prime Minister  Tony Abbot
Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott

The Prime Minister has hardened Australia’s stance against Chinese military activity in the South China Sea, warning the Government “deplores” attempts by any nation to expand its territory in the disputed region.

It is the strongest language yet by any Australian official regarding the diplomatic dispute over the contested waterway.

Tony Abbott said Australia has always had a very clear and consistent position on the South China Sea.

“We take no sides in the many territorial disputes in that region but we deplore any unilateral alteration of the status quo,” he said.

“We believe that disputes should be settled peacefully in accordance with international law.

“We do what we can to uphold freedom of navigation on the sea and in the air. So that’s our position, it’s long been our position and it will continue to be our position.”

US officials said China has added some 800 hectares to five outposts in the Spratly Islands, including more than 600 hectares since the start of this year.

Over the weekend, Defence Minister Kevin Andrews used a speech to a security conference in Singapore to call for a halt to all-land reclamation in the hotly contested seas north of Australia.

“Australia has made clear its opposition to any coercive or unilateral actions to change the status quo in the South or East China Sea,” he said.

“This includes any large-scale land reclamation activity by claimants in the South China Sea, and we are particularly concerned at the prospect of militarisation of artificial structures.

“Australia believes that all regional partners represented here have an enduring interest in maintaining safe and stable maritime trade and air passage.

“We therefore remain concerned by any developments in the South and East China Sea which raise tensions in the region.”

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