Australia, Indonesia mull joint South China Sea patrols
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”.