US, Australia to reassert rule of law in South China Sea

“We’ll keep working with our Australian partners to reassert the rule of law in the South China Sea, which the United States and Australia have both underscored in recent, important statements,” United States Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said during July 28 joint press conference with US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, and Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds who met for 30th Australia-US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN 2020).

The joint statement released after the AUSMIN 2020 says “following this year’s cooperative naval activity between HMAS Parramatta and the USS America Expeditionary Strike Group in the South China Sea, the principals committed to pursue increased and regularized maritime cooperation in the region, as well as the Indian Ocean, bilaterally and in concert with other likeminded and regional partners.”

Esper said they “spoke in detail about the Chinese Communist Party’s destabilizing activities and the fact that Beijing is increasingly resorting to coercion and intimidation to advance its strategic objectives at the expense of other nations.”

“The United States seeks a constructive, results-oriented relationship with the PRC, but we will stand firm in upholding the international rules-based order.  And we applaud Australia for pushing back against the CCP’s brazen economic threats and coercive behavior and increasing risk of retaliation,” Esper added.

Reynolds said “Australia has a long history of transiting through the region – unilaterally, bilaterally – with regional friends, and also multilaterally.”

“For example, the ADF Joint Task Group recently transited through the South China Sea on its way to RIMPAC, and as the Secretary observed, we did a trilateral transit through the Philippine Sea.  Our approach remains consistent, and we will continue to transit through the region in accordance with international law,” the Australian defence minister said.