Australia declares ‘there is no legal basis’ to Beijing’s claims in South China Sea

Australia declares ‘there is no legal basis’ to Beijing’s claims in South China Sea

  • Australia says China’s claims to disputed islands are ‘invalid’ and are not consistent with UN convention on law of the sea

Australia has declared “there is no legal basis” to China’s territorial and maritime claims in the South China Sea, marking an escalation of recent tensions with Beijing and bringing Canberra further in line with Washington.

The declaration, made in a submission to the United Nations on Thursday, comes after the United States hardened its position earlier this month, accusing Beijing of a “completely unlawful … campaign of bullying” to control the sea.

Australia’s shift in position comes as Australia’s foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, and the defence minister, Linda Reynolds, prepare to travel to Washington next week to meet with the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and the secretary of defence, Mark Esper, for the 2020 Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (Ausmin).

The declaration to the UN said: “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.”

Australia’s declaration mentioned the objections and complaints held by the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia in regards to Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea, and “rejects” the validity of “land building activities” used to create artificial islands.