Exercise caution, China tells Australia

BEIJING • China hopes that Australia acts and speaks with caution on the South China Sea and that its words and actions on the matter match, a senior Chinese officer told the visiting head of the Australian Defence Force.

Australia, a staunch United States ally, has drawn criticism before from China for running surveillance flights over disputed islands in the area and supporting US freedom of navigation exercises there. Australia has not conducted a unilateral freedom of navigation voyage of its own.

In Beijing, Central Military Commission vice-chairman Fan Changlong told Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin that China hopes to push forward healthy, stable development of bilateral military ties, the Chinese Defence Ministry said on Wednesday.

China "hopes that on the South China Sea issue, the Australian side can speak and act cautiously, and that its words and deeds match", the ministry paraphrased Mr Fan as saying.

He did not elaborate.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims on parts of the area, believed to have rich deposits of oil and gas.

China's construction of artificial islands there, along with new airstrips, has rattled nerves around the region.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2016, with the headline 'Exercise caution, China tells Australia'. Print Edition | Subscribe