US, Australia seriously concerned on militarization of disputed South China Sea features

Australia Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds and United States Secretary of Defense Mark Esper during the 29th Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) with Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed serious concerns at continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea.

The AUSMIN was held on August 4 in Sydney, Australia.

US and Australia said in AUSMIN 2019 Joint Statement that the officials “strongly objected to coercive unilateral actions by any claimant state that could alter the status quo and increase tensions.”

“The Ministers and Secretaries also expressed concern about disruptive activities in relation to long-standing oil and gas projects as well as fisheries in the South China Sea,” noted in the joint statement.

The importance of upholding freedom of navigation, overflight and other lawful uses of the sea and of all States’ acting in accordance with international law was also emphasized.

“They called on all countries to make and pursue their maritime claims in accordance with international law, as reflected in the UN Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS),” it added.

“The Ministers and Secretaries underscored the importance of the July 2016 decision in the Philippines-China Arbitral Tribunal’s Award, which is binding on the parties. They called for any Code of Conduct to: be fully consistent with international law, in particular UNCLOS; not prejudice the interests of third parties or the rights of states under international law; and support existing, inclusive regional architecture,” says in the joint statement.

“The Ministers and Secretaries expressed concern about the potential establishment of new military bases that could undermine stability and sovereignty in the Indo-Pacific region. They exchanged views on recent reports, such as in relation to Cambodia, and undertook to remain in close contact on developments,” says in the AUSMIN 2019 Joint Statement.