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

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