Canberra: ‘Australia rejects China’s claim to ‘historic rights’ or ‘maritime rights and interests’ as established in the ‘long course of historical practice’ in the South China Sea. All of such assertions are unlawful and meaningless,’ said Australia as it delivered a new blow to China. Australia is the second world power to reject China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. At the same time, the US has showered criticism over China once again lambasting the nation as it said the South China Sea was not part of its maritime empire.
The People’s Republic of China, which has been attempting to fulfil its sovereignty ambitions given the Coronavirus pandemic, is being significantly challenged by the international community. The US, the UK and many of the world’s leading nations as even smaller countries have adopted an open stand against Chinese activities. The tensions between Australia and China, two major trading partners, are slowly surfacing for the past few years. The Coronavirus pandemic has only added to the tensions between the two nations that existed over issues such as interference in Australia’s political affairs and cyber-attacks on the country. Besides, the consistent threats from China and Australia’s hard stance against it seem to have taken the tensions to a boiling point. Considering Australia’s aggressive stance over the South China Sea, the possibility of the relations returning to normal appear dim.
In its official statement to the United Nations (UN), Australia has clarified on its position on the South China Sea. ‘The Australian government rejects any claims by China that are inconsistent with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), in particular, maritime claims that do not adhere to its rules on baselines, maritime zones and classification of features. Australia rejects China’s claim to ‘historic rights’ or ‘maritime rights and interests’ as established in the ‘long course of historical practice’ in the South China Sea. The country does not have any legal authority to claim its right over islands that lie outside its marine limits,’ stated Australia as it warned China its unilateral territorial claims in the South China Sea would not be accepted.
Two weeks ago, as the Australian Foreign Ministry clarified on its stand on the South China Sea, the country adopted an open position of conflict with China. Also, the US rejected China’s claims on the South China Sea in clear and direct words, ‘The United States champions a free and open Indo-Pacific. All of China’s claims on the South China Sea are unlawful.’ After that, India, the UK, as even the Southeast Asian nations, supported the US stand. However, Australia has become the second nation to reject China’s claims altogether based on policy. Just as Australia declared its strategy, the US reiterated its stand on the South China Sea.
‘The US policy is crystal clear. The South China Sea is not a part of China’s maritime empire. If China violates international laws and democratic nations do not act upon it, the Chinese Communist Party will encroach more and more territories and history has proved this. All of the disputes over the South China Sea must be resolved as per international laws,’ US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. While the US and its allies prepare to corner China over the South China Sea, even Beijing has initiated forceful activities to retaliate against them.
Local media has reported that China has started live-fire drills from Saturday. The exercises reportedly began in the Guangdong region in the South China Sea and focus on targeting warships and fighter jets. The war games are China’s second in this month in the South China Sea region.