Australian envoy criticises Chinese Ambassador to India for objecting to comments on South China Sea

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Aug 01, 2020, 02.08 PM(IST)

South China Sea Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

O’Farrell on Friday said Australia remains deeply concerned by Chinese actions in the South China Sea that are “destabilising and could provoke escalation”. The resource-rich South China Sea is also an important shipping route.

Australian High Commissioner Barry O’Farrell has hit back at Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Weidong for objecting to his comments about China’s destabilising manoeuvres in the South China Sea. He also asserted that Beijing should refrain from actions that could unilaterally alter the status quo in the region.

O’Farrell on Friday said Australia remains deeply concerned by Chinese actions in the South China Sea that are “destabilising and could provoke escalation”. The resource-rich South China Sea is also an important shipping route.

China claims sovereignty over all of South China Sea, a huge source of hydrocarbons. However, several countries in the region including Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan and Brunei have competing claims.

Sun, in a tweet, took objection to the Australian diplomat’s remarks and said they were made through “disregarding facts”.

To this end, O’Farrell reminded the Chinese envoy about the verdict by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2016 rejecting China’s claim of sovereignty over the South China Sea region.

“Thank you @China_Amb_India. I would hope then you follow the 2016 South China Sea Arbitral Award which is final and binding under international law, and also generally refrain from actions that unilaterally alter the status quo,” the Australian High Commissioner tweeted.

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In its verdict, the international tribunal, constituted under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) said that China had violated the sovereign rights of the Philippines by carrying out certain activities in the South China Sea.

The Philippines had approached the tribunal arguing that China’s territorial claims in the region were unlawful.

O’Farrell issued a statement on Thursday criticising China over its border row with India in eastern Ladakh and its actions in South China Sea. 

In the last few weeks, China has increased its military assertiveness in South China Sea when the entire world is battling the coronavirus pandemic.

In response, the US had sent military ships near the disputed islands and called Beijing’s claim over the region illegal.

TROUBLED WATERS

China illustrates its claims with a vague, U-shaped “nine-dash line” that includes swathes of Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone, or EEZ, as well as the Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands. It also overlaps the EEZs of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

A tribunal at The Hague, based on a suit brought by the Philippines, ruled in 2016 that China has no “historic title” over the waters, and that its line was superseded by the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Chinese state media had then called the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague a “puppet” of external forces after it ruled that China had breached the Philippines’ sovereign rights by endangering its ships and fishing and oil projects.

(with inputs from agencies)