SYDNEY • Australia will continue to advocate "very strongly" for freedom of navigation through the South China Sea, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said yesterday.
"Australia will continue to adopt a very consistent position," Mr Morrison told a media briefing in Canberra when asked if the country backed the position of the United States on the South China Sea.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday the US would support countries that believed China has violated their maritime claims in the South China Sea, but stressed doing so in multilateral and legal forums.
"We will support countries all across the world who recognise that China has violated their legal territorial claims as well - or maritime claims as well," Mr Pompeo told reporters at a news conference.
"We will go provide them the assistance we can, whether that's in multilateral bodies, whether that's in Asean, whether that's through legal responses, we will use all the tools we can."
Beijing claims most of the resource-rich South China Sea, which is also a major trade route.
The Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan have their own claims that overlap in part with China's and, in some cases, with one another's.
Washington on Monday rejected China's claims to offshore resources in most of the South China Sea, drawing criticism from Beijing, which said the US position raised tension in the region, highlighting an increasingly testy relationship.
Monday's statement reflected the first time Washington had taken the position that Beijing's claims to the South China Sea were "completely unlawful".