Australia’s involvement in South China Sea has drawn a sharp reaction from China. China also timed its words to coincide with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s visit to Beijing. She will be holding talks with her Chinese counterparts on Wednesday.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said Australia must refrain from actions that would endanger regional peace and stability. The remarks also answered Bishop’s comments of “questioning China’s island reclamation in the South China Sea.”
The spokesperson called up Australia to pursue an objective and fair approach on the South China Sea issue. Bishop had said in Tokyo that Australia supported Philippines’ action of taking China to an international tribunal on the South China Sea issue.
Bishop was also quoted as saying that Australia would seek “clarification from Beijing,” reports Reuters.
“Given that President Xi has said that China does not intend to militarize the islands then of course we ask what the construction work on the islands will be used for,” Bishop told reporters in Tokyo.
Bishop said China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi had been saying that reclaiming of islands is for public goods. “So I am seeking more detail as to how other nations could access these public goods,” she said.
Regarding the tribunal, the Chinese spokesperson said Australia is missing the fact that Philippines was acting unilaterally. It was against international law and breached the consensus between Philippines and China.
He reiterated that China’s construction on the islands is for providing public goods. It will also enhance maritime search and rescue. Protection of fishermen and delivery of emergency medical care are part of it. The spokesperson also said China’s construction of homeland defense facilities are fully covered by international law. He said construction work in South China Sea will not affect the freedom of navigation.
However, the Australian Foreign minister minced no words in her Tokyo news conference. She said Australia welcomed China’s economic rise. But China “should act in a way that contributes to regional and global stability.”
Without taking sides, Bishop said Australia has an “unshakeable” commitment to freedom of navigation and over-flight, reports The Guardian.