Australia has reasons to be involved


I REFER to the article “Keep our backyard safe” by Wong Chun Wai (Sunday Star, Aug 16) regarding the South China Sea.

Although primarily an attack on the United States for its assertion of navigation rights in the waters to our north, Wong was also critical of my country.
He wrote: “Australia, which has no reason to be involved, has also rejected Beijing’s territorial and maritime claims, saying there is ‘no legal basis’ to several of them.”

I am writing to explain why Australia does have a reason to be involved. In fact, there are three reasons:

i) Like Malaysia, we are a trading nation. Also like Malaysia, most of our goods move through, or over, the South China Sea;

ii) Australia, in common with Malaysia, is a party to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). We must work to uphold UNCLOS, and we strongly support international law as the basis for determining claims and resolving disputes; and

iii) We care about the security, prosperity and sovereignty of our friends in the region, including Malaysia, with whom we have stood, in peace and in war, for over 75 years.

Ironically, I read Wong’s piece as I was flying from Labuan to Kuala Lumpur over a body of water that Beijing regards as part of China within the “nine dash line”. Both Australia and Malaysia reject China’s claims to “historic rights” in this area, which in 2016 were found to be inconsistent with UNCLOS, and invalid.