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Australia says China’s South China Sea claims are unlawful

MELBOURNE: Australia has joined the United States in stating that China's claims in the South China Sea do not comply with international law in a declaration likely to anger China and put more strain on their deteriorating relations.

The United States this month rejected China's claims to offshore resources in most of the South China Sea, drawing criticism from China which said the US position raised tension in the region.

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Australia, in a declaration filed at the United Nations in New York on Friday (Jul 24), said it too rejected Chinas maritime claims around contested islands in the South China Sea as being inconsistent with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

"Australia rejects China's claim to 'historic rights' or 'maritime rights and interests' as established in the 'long course of historical practice' in the South China Sea," it said.

READ: Commentary: Southeast Asia is pushing back on Beijing on the South China Sea

Australia also said it did not accept China's assertion that its sovereignty over the Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands was "widely recognised by the international community", citing objections from Vietnam and the Philippines.

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China claims 90 per cent of the potentially energy-rich waters but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also lay claim to parts of it.

About US$3 trillion worth of trade passes through the waterway each year. China has built bases atop atolls in the region but says its intentions are peaceful.

Australia has long advocated for freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and for all claimants to resolve their differences in compliance with international laws.

READ: What are the main areas of tension in the US-China relationship?

READ: Ahead of US election, China braces for rocky ride, potential change

Its more outspoken position on China's claims comes after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this month China had offeredRead More – Source