rss icon Subscribe
desktop mobile

Australia to Stress International Law in South China Sea Dispute

© Kalyakan / Adobe Stock

By Colin Packham

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will on Tuesday hail the role of international law in settling regional conflicts, comments apparently aimed at bolstering Australian efforts to build a coalition against Chinese assertiveness.
Bishop, in a speech ahead of a special meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Sydney, will not name China but will argue that international law will stabilise a region strained by rival claims in the South China Sea.
"The rules-based order is designed to regulate behaviour and rivalries of and between states, and ensure countries compete fairly and in a way that does not threaten others or destabilise their region or the world," Bishop will say in Sydney, according to a leaked draft of the speech seen by the Australian Financial Review.
"It places limitations on the extent to which countries use their economic or military power to impose unfair agreements on less powerful nations."
China claims most of the South China Sea, an important trade route which is believed to contain large quantities of oil and natural gas, and has been building artificial islands on reefs, some with ports and air strips.
Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, all of which are members of ASEAN, and Taiwan also have claims in the sea.
Australia, a staunch U.S. ally with no claim to the South China Sea, has long maintained its neutrality on the dispute to protect economic relationship with China.
But with Australia's relations with China souring in recent months, Bishop's comment underscore a new Australian tactic.
"Australia is trying to get ASEAN on side with the notion that China is a rule-breaker that everyone would be better served by abiding by," said Nick Bisley, professor of international relations at Melbourne's La Trobe University.
"If it can get ASEAN to use that language, it will strengthen Australia's position considerably."
ASEAN and China in August begun talks to develop a code of conduct for the South China Sea, though a deal is unlikely before 2019, Singapore's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said in February.
The issue of the South China Sea is set to dominate the unofficial agenda of a special three-day meeting of ASEAN countries and Australia beginning on Friday.
Officially, the summit will focus on fostering closer economic ties among the 10 members ASEAN and Australia, and countering the threat of Islamist militants returning to the region from the Middle East.
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to travel to Sydney where she will hold bilateral talks with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who is under pressure to publicly condemn the deaths and expulsion of thousands of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar's Rakhine State over recent months.

(Reporting by Colin Packham: Editing by Robert Birsel)

Mar 13, 2018


Coast Guard

3 Rescued Off Port of St. Lucie

The Coast Guard rescued three people aboard a disabled boat approximately 12 miles east of Port of St. Lucie, Sunday. At approximately, 5 a.m., the crew of the tug McAllister

Coast Guard Responds to Disabled Ferry off Woods Hole, MA

The Coast Guard is responding Saturday night after a ferry with 78 people aboard lost power while en route Woods Hole from Martha's Vineyard.    The captain of the Motor Vessel

2 divers, minor rescued in Puerto Rico

File photo uf U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen  Photo US Coast Guard

Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crews rescued two divers and a minor

Government Update

Sweden: A Pioneering Nation in Green Shipping

The innovation and green projects mentioned in the report have to a large extent taken place within the Gothenburg port cluster. Photo: Port of Gothenburg.

Sweden is a role model for the global shipping community, and other countries have a great deal

New Members Join NOAA’s Hydrographic Services Advisory Panel

(Photo: NOAA)

NOAA acting administrator retired Navy Rear Adm. Tim Gallaudet, Ph.D., has appointed three new

MCA’s CEO Massey to Retire by End 2018

Sir Alan Massey (Photo: MCA)

Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) chief executive Sir Alan Massey announced he plans to retire

Maritime Apps