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Australia slams China’s ‘coercive conduct’ in South China Sea

Australia slams Beijing over its ‘coercive conduct’ in the South China Sea as tensions between the two nations threaten to boil over

  • Australia’s Defence Minister and Foreign Minister travel to the U.S. on Sunday 
  • Annual high level AUSMIN talks will be held next week between the two nations 
  • Officials from both nations said tensions with China are to be a focus of meeting  

Beijing’s ‘coercive conduct’ in the South China Sea has been slammed by Australia’s Foreign Minister and Defence Minister ahead of high level talks in Washington DC. 

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and Foreign Minister Marise Payne will travel to the United States capital on Sunday for the AUSMIN talks where they will meet with their American counterparts. 

Senators Payne and Reynolds have flagged China’s actions in Hong Kong along with internet hacking and fake news as other issues ahead of next week’s meeting, according to The Australian. 

Warships and fighter jets of Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy take part in a military display in the South China Sea April 12, 2018. Picture taken April 12, 2018 

Foreign Minister Marise Payne (pictured) will travel to the United States capital on Sunday for the AUSMIN talks where she will chat with the US Secretary of State

Foreign Minister Marise Payne (pictured) will travel to the United States capital on Sunday for the AUSMIN talks where she will chat with the US Secretary of State 

The Chinese Navy and Australian warships (pictured) were engaged in a stand-off last week after a confrontation in the South China Sea

The Chinese Navy and Australian warships (pictured) were engaged in a stand-off last week after a confrontation in the South China Sea

They say the 2020 AUSMIN talks are extremely important amid rising tensions between the Asian and Western superpowers following the global coronavirus outbreak understood to have originated in China. 

‘Never has it been more important that we, as allies, sit down together and find every possible way to advance our shared interests,’ they write. 

‘Legislation imposed on Hong Kong has undermined the rights, freedoms and futures of millions of people … Coercive actions in the South China Sea continue to  destabilise the region … [while] cyber attacks are on the rise.’ 

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a speech on Friday morning AEST agreed, saying it was ‘time for free nations to act’. 

‘Every nation will have to come to its own understanding of how to protect its national security, its economic prosperity, and its ideals,’ Mr Pompeo said 

‘But I call on all nations to start by doing what America has done: to insist on reciprocity, transparency and accountability from the Chinese Communist Party.’ 

Also on Friday the Chinese government announced the closure of the US consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu.  

The move follows the United States closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, which the Trump government claimed was the base for espionage operations. 

China’s top official in Houston, consul-general Cai Wei, had previously been deputy ambassador in Canberra from 2015 to 2019. 

Among agreements understood as set to be tabled at the AUSMIN meeting include a plan for regional health issues, specifically infectious diseases, another plan to combat the spread of disinformation by ‘malicious actors’. 

The U.S. will also be seeking Australia’s support over Beijing’s actions in the South China sea. 

The communist nation has been building an increased military presence in disputed territory over the last decade, including building man made islands. 

Malaysia, The Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Indonesia along with China have various claims on islands and maritime waters in the region.   

An uninhabited island in  Spratly Islands the South China Sea which has claims from several countries

The Australian vessels were sailing close to the Spratly islands - which are claimed by Beijing as well as the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam - when the incident happened

An uninhabited island in the Spratly Island in the South China Sea which has claims from several countries 

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds (pictured) said the Australia and US relationship has never been more important

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds (pictured) said the Australia and US relationship has never been more important 

The South China Sea supports an enormous fishing industry, is thought to contain oil and gas reserves, and is a route for one third of the world’s trade shipping worth $3 trillion. 

Just last week five Australian warships transited the region on their way to a U.S. led military exercise near Hawaii called Rimpac. 

At least one reportedly had an interaction with Chinese navy patrolling the waters. 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday in a video address to the United States Studies Centre that the friendship between the Australia and America has never been more important. 

‘We are a trusted partner of the United States. We trust each other … Australia looks to the US, sure. But we don’t leave it to the US. We do our share of heavy lifting in this partnership,’ he said. 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday in a video address to the United States Studies Centre that Australia looks to the U.S. but doesn't "leave it to the U.S."

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday in a video address to the United States Studies Centre that Australia looks to the U.S. but doesn’t ‘leave it to the U.S.’ 

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