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Australia now joins US in declaring China's claims in South China Sea as 'illegal'

Bangladesh Live News | @banglalivenews | 26 Jul 2020

Sydney/Beijing: In a move, which might further deteriorate relations with China, Australia has backed the US in declaring Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea to be illegal.

In a letter to the United Nations, Australia's permanent mission rejected the Chinese Communist Party's claim to disputed islands in the crucial trading waters, calling them "inconsistent" with international law, ABC News reported.

"The Australian Government rejects any claims by China that are inconsistent with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), in particular, maritime claims that do not adhere to its rules on baselines, maritime zones and classification of features," the document states as quoted by ABC News.

"There is no legal basis for China to draw straight baselines connecting the outermost points of maritime features or 'island groups' in the South China Sea, including around the 'Four Sha' or 'continental' or 'outlying' archipelagos," read the documents.

"Australia rejects any claims to internal waters, territorial sea, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf based on such straight baselines," it said.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely 'unlawful'.

"The United States champions a free and open Indo-Pacific. Today we are strengthening U.S. policy in a vital, contentious part of that region — the South China Sea," Pompeo said in a statement.

"We are making clear: Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them," he said.

"In the South China Sea, we seek to preserve peace and stability, uphold freedom of the seas in a manner consistent with international law, maintain the unimpeded flow of commerce, and oppose any attempt to use coercion or force to settle disputes," Pompeo said.

"We share these deep and abiding interests with our many allies and partners who have long endorsed a rules-based international order," he said.

So far, the US had opposed China's actions but not called them illegal until this time.

The South China Sea Dispute:

The South China Sea dispute, according to Council on Foreign Relations (CFR),  originates from China’s sweeping claims of sovereignty over the sea and its estimated 11 billion barrels of untapped oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Competing claimants Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam are riled by China's high-handedness.

The South China Sea disputes involve both island and maritime claims among these sovereign states.

An estimated US$3.37 trillion worth of global trade passes through the South China Sea annually, which accounts for a third of the global maritime trade

According to CFR, in recent years, satellite imagery has shown China’s increased efforts to reclaim land in the South China Sea by physically increasing the size of islands or creating new islands altogether.

In addition to piling sand onto existing reefs, China has constructed ports, military installations, and airstrips—particularly in the Paracel and Spratly Islands, where it has twenty and seven outposts, respectively. China has militarized Woody Island by deploying fighter jets, cruise missiles, and a radar system, said the CFR website quoting various sources.




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