Australia swipes at Beijing over South China Sea tensions, detention of pro-democracy writer


SINGAPORE (AP) — Australian defense minister Christopher Pyne urged China on Monday to resolve tensions in the South China Sea in accordance with international law, in a swipe after Beijing’s sudden detention of a writer who holds dual citizenship.

Pyne said the artificial islands Beijing has been building in the disputed waters have “increased anxiety” and “not increased regional confidence in China’s strategic intentions.”

“On the other hand, resolving disputes in the South China Sea in accordance with international law would build confidence in China’s willingness to support and champion a strategic culture that respects the rights of all states,” he added.

Pyne was speaking at a forum in Singapore attended by defense representatives from 24 countries.

He said Australia is open to taking part in multilateral activities in the “international waters” which are crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves.

China is pitted against smaller neighbors in those waters, which it claims almost in entirety.

While Australia is “not interested in containing China,” it wants Indo-Pacific countries to not have to make “choices between economic gain and sovereignty,” Pyne said.

He added that the growing rivalry between the U.S. and China should not be defined in “wholly adversarial terms” or characterized as a new Cold War because economies are far more mutually dependent than they were when the West contested the Soviet bloc.

“There is no gain in stifling China’s growth and prosperity, and this is not an agenda in any capital that I know of,” Pyne said.

Instead, Australia hopes to increase its engagement with the Indo-Pacific, which is home to the world’s busiest sea lanes and 50 percent of its population.

It plans to invest more than 90 billion Australian dollars ($64.8 billion) in a fleet of attack class submarines, frigates and other ships to strengthen its maritime capabilities.