PM’s push for binding conduct code
Malcolm Turnbull has pushed China’s Premier Li Keqiang — and all countries involved in the East Asia Summit — to ensure any code of conduct in the South China Sea is legally binding.
China and ASEAN countries have been discussing the possibility of a code of conduct in the disputed waters for years, sparking scepticism from Australia and other nations.
In his statement to the East Asia Summit last night, Mr Turnbull said Australia’s view was that the code must be effective and legally binding, and adhere to international law.
He also focused on North Korea, accusing its diplomats of “running rackets” and engaging in illegal revenue raising.
The Prime Minister told the summit all countries should ensure US Security Council sanctions were effectively implemented. They include not allowing North Korean front companies to operate in their jurisdiction and not allowing their diplomats to use their positions in their countries to raise funds for Pyongyang’s missile program.
Australia is working to join with other democracies in Asia to maintain the influence of liberal international law in the region after China ignored a finding by an international court against its island building in the South China Sea.
Three months ago, ASEAN countries agreed to an outline for talks over a future code, but it was not made clear if contraventions of the code would have any legal consequences.
In a meeting with Mr Li, the Chinese Premier said relations with Australia were improving, and revealed he hung a photo of the two leaders wearing AFL scarfs in his office.
It has been a rocky year in the relationship, with Australian leaders and department heads voicing concerns about Chinese government interference in Australian society.
In opening remarks made to the media, Mr Li set a lighter tone and said he very much enjoyed the gift of a photo of the two men wearing the scarfs from the AFL teams Port Adelaide and Sydney Swans.
Mr Turnbull said in reply that he was a “natural diplomat” and said he would visit China next year for annual leaders’ talks.
Mr Li said the two countries were good friends and he expected bilateral relations to improve.
Claimants in the South China Sea include China, Taiwan, Vietnam, The Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. Last year, Cambodia and Laos hatched deals with China on settling the South China Sea dispute. These two countries have been involved in blocking ASEAN statements condemning China’s actions in the sea.
The revival of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue involving Australia, India, Japan and the US was attacked on Monday by Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang who said the nations were “politicising or excluding relevant parties”, referring to their failure to include China.
Malcolm Turnbull with China’s Premier Li Keqiang at the East Asia Summit in Manila yesterday