Prime Minister Tony Abbott has delivered a blunt warning to China that Australia “deplores” any unilateral action that would alter the status quo in the South China Sea, a clear reference to China’s ambitious reclamation and island-building projects that are designed to position its military hardware in the disputed Spratly Islands chain.
Mr Abbott and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, speaking in Singapore, announced plans for deeper trade links through a review of the current free trade agreement, closer work on foreign policy and stronger education ties.
An annual leaders’ meeting between the two nations will be introduced and a stronger defence relationship will see more Singaporean armed forces training in Australia.
The pair also said Australia and Singapore were working closely together and exchanging intelligence and other information about the threat posed by Islamic State.
In recent weeks, Australia has joined the United States and other nations in hardening their language about the South China Sea.
Concerns about China and the South China Sea has led the Abbott government to tighten relations with most major countries in the region including the US, Japan, India, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and now Singapore.