Malaysia and Australia’s defense ministers are calling for freedom of navigation in the South China Sea amid growing regional concerns over China’s military build-up in the disputed waters.
Tensions between China and its neighbors have risen in recent months over its land reclamation activities in the waters.
China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year, but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.
Freedom of navigation and flight over the South China Sea is important to the region and also to Australia’s relationship with China, Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne said after meeting with her Malaysian counterpart on Monday.
Amid China’s rising activity in the disputed waters, Australia said in a White Paper last month that it will increase defense spending by nearly A$30 billion ($22.87 billion) over the next 10 years.
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