Prime minister says Australia will sail in South China Sea


CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s prime minister said the Australian navy has a “perfect right” to traverse the South China Sea after a media report Friday that the Chinese navy had challenged three Australian warships in the hotly contested waterway.

The Chinese “challenged” two Australian frigates and an oil replenishment ship this month as the Australian ships were sailing to Vietnam, Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported, citing anonymous defense officials.

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It is not clear what took place during the encounter while China was conducting its largest ever naval exercises in the region.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull did not comment on the specific incident when questioned by reporters in London.

“We maintain and practice the right of freedom of navigation and overflight throughout the world and, in this context, we’re talking about naval vessels on the world’s oceans, including the South China Sea, as is our perfect right in accordance with international law,” Turnbull said.