Australia, on Friday, filed a declaration at the United Nations in New York asserting that China's claims in the South China Sea are not in compliance with international law. The move is likely to anger China as Australia joins the US in declaring its opposition to the Asian superpower's proclamations.
In the declaration, Australia stated China's maritime claims around several contested islands located in the South China Sea are not in line with UN conventions on the Law of the Sea. Earlier this month, the US rejected China's contentions over offshore resources dotting the disputed waters.
"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," read the declaration.
Objection from Other Nations Cited
Australia also said it did not accept China's assertion that its sovereignty over the Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands was "widely recognized by the international community", citing objections from Vietnam and the Philippines.
China claims 90 percent of the potentially energy-rich waters but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also lay claim to parts of it. About $3 trillion worth of trade passes through the waterway each year. China has built bases atop atolls in the region but says its intentions are peaceful.
Australia has long advocated for freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and for all claimants to resolve their differences in compliance with international laws. Its more outspoken position on China's claims comes after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this month China had offered no coherent legal basis for its ambitions in the South China Sea and for years has been using intimidation against other coastal states.
US' Opposition To China's Claims
The world would not allow China to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire, Pompeo said, adding that the United States would support countries that believed China has violated their maritime claims.
The United States has long opposed China's expansive territorial claims on the South China Sea, sending warships regularly through the strategic waterway to demonstrate freedom of navigation. Australia's declaration on China's claims comes as its foreign and defense ministers prepare to travel to Washington to attend a bilateral forum on July 28, the government said.
Diplomatic tension between China and Australia has worsened recently over various issues including an Australian call for an international enquiry into the novel coronavirus, which emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
(With inputs from agencies)