Aus­tralia, In­done­sia mull joint South China Sea pa­trols

The Myanmar Times - - World -

AUS­TRALIA is con­sid­er­ing joint pa­trols with In­done­sia in the dis­puted South China Sea, For­eign Min­is­ter Julie Bishop said yes­ter­day, in a move set to irk Bei­jing.

The pos­si­bil­ity was raised by Jakarta dur­ing meet­ings be­tween Ms Bishop and De­fence Min­is­ter Marise Payne and In­done­sian of­fi­cials in­clud­ing De­fence Min­is­ter Ryamizard Ry­acudu last week.

“We have agreed to ex­plore op­tions to in­crease mar­itime co­op­er­a­tion and of course that would in­clude co­or­di­nated activities in the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea,” Ms Bishop told the Aus­tralian Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion.

“This is all con­sis­tent with our pol­icy of ex­er­cis­ing our right of freedom of nav­i­ga­tion and that’s in ac­cor­dance with in­ter­na­tional law.”

Mr Ry­acudu told the Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald that he had pro­posed a “peace pa­trol” with Aus­tralia.

“There are no in­ten­tions to dis­rupt the re­la­tion­ship [with China]. It is called a peace pa­trol; it brings peace. It is about pro­tect­ing fish in each other’s ar­eas,” he said.

Bei­jing as­serts sovereignty over al­most all of the re­source-rich South China Sea, de­spite ri­val claims from its South­east Asian neigh­bours – most no­tably the Philip­pines, which took the case to the Hague-based Per­ma­nent Court of Ar­bi­tra­tion.

The court ruled that there was no le­gal ba­sis to China’s claims – a ver­dict Bei­jing dis­missed ve­he­mently.

Aus­tralia, like staunch ally the US, has no claims of its own in the area, but in­sists that all ship­ping has a right to pass through seas it re­gards as in­ter­na­tional waters.

Ms Bishop said the Aus­tralian navy had al­ready con­ducted joint ex­er­cises in the South China Sea with In­dia and the US as “a reg­u­lar part of what our navy does and it’s also part of our en­gage­ment in the re­gion”.

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