Australia to continue to support freedom of navigation in South China Sea, PM says

Japanese naval ships train with USS Ronald Reagan in the South China Sea on July 7, 2020.
Japanese naval ships train with USS Ronald Reagan in the South China Sea on July 7, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Australia will continue to advocate "very strongly" for the freedom of navigation through the South China sea, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday (July 16).

"Australia will continue to adopt a very consistent position," 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 United States 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," Pompeo told reporters.

"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," he said at a news conference, referring to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The United States on Monday (July 13) 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, highlighting an increasingly testy relationship.

Monday's statement reflected the first time the United States had taken the position that China's claims to the South China sea were "completely unlawful."