South China Sea: Australia in three-way rebuke of China


Beijing: The Australian government has issued a strong joint statement with the United States and Japan calling on China to abide by a Hague tribunal’s ruling on the South China Sea.

The three countries issued the statement late on Monday at the conclusion of the trilateral strategic dialogue held between Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop and her US counterpart John Kerry and Japan’s Fumio Kishida, on the sidelines of a South-east Asian regional security conference in Vientiane, Laos.

A Chinese H-6K bomber patrols the islands and reefs in the South China Sea.
A Chinese H-6K bomber patrols the islands and reefs in the South China Sea. Photo: Xinhua/AP
The statement, tellingly, went further than a cautious joint statement produced by then 10 ASEAN member nations, meeting for the first time after the July 12 arbitration which came down overwhelmingly in favour of the Philippines, and against China. The ASEAN statement failed to directly mention the ruling, highlighting the divide between countries in the region as Beijing continues to exert both diplomatic and economic pressure.

In contrast, the direct language and coordinated nature of the trilateral statement from Australia, Japan and the United States is likely to further antagonise China which has already lashed out at the respective countries’ support of the Hague ruling. Beijing sees such statements as proof of US-led outside interference and evidence that it and its strategic allies are motivated by a desire to contain China’s rise.