Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has asked China to refrain from "coercive behaviour" following an international tribunal ruling that struck down Beijing's claims over the strategic South China Sea.
"As I have said many times, every nation in our region has benefited enormously from the many, many decades of relative peace and tranquillity in this region. It is vital that that is maintained," he said.
Turnbull yesterday asked China to "refrain from coercive behaviour and any unilateral actions designed to change the status quo in the disputed areas."
He asked all parties and claimants to respect the decision made in accordance with international law, saying "there is so much at risk in the event of conflict, in the event of heightened tensions, so this is an important decision."
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said, "Australia has consistently said that we take no position on the competing claims. On the issue of sovereignty of course this decision did not relate to sovereignty, it's about maritime rights."
"We do however have a deep interest in the peace and stability of the South China Sea and it is an important trade route for Australia," she said.
"It is also a very important maritime route globally and so we urge all claimants - because there are a number of competing and overlapping claims in relation to the South China Sea - to resolve their differences peacefully, to negotiate and in the case of the Philippines arbitration, for both parties, China and the Philippines, to respect the outcome of that decision," Bishop said.
She said Australia is likely to discuss the matter at the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum this month.
"I intend to attend that meeting or that series of meetings where this discussion will take place. In the meantime we urge all parties to de-escalate tensions, not take any action that would provoke or increase tensions," she said.
Source: Financial Express