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AUSMIN 2020: China’s maritime claims not valid under international law

China’s maritime claims are not valid under international law, according to the Joint Statement on Australia-US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) 2020 released on July 28.

The two countries’ secretaries and ministers expressed serious concerns over recent coercive and destabilising actions across the Indo-Pacific, the joint statement says.

In line with the 2016 decision of the Arbitral Tribunal, the two sides affirmed that Beijing’s maritime claims are not valid under international law and that China cannot assert maritime claims in the East Sea (internationally called South China Sea) based on the “nine-dash line”, “historic rights”, or entire island groups in the waters, which are incompatible with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

They noted that the 2016 Arbitral Award is final and binding on both parties, and emphasised that all claims in the sea must be made and resolved in accordance with international law.

They also expressed their support for the rights of claimants to lawfully exploit offshore resources, including in relation to long-standing oil and gas projects as well as fisheries in the waters, free from harassment and coercion.

They welcomed the recent ASEAN Leaders statement that a Code of Conduct (COC) in the sea should be consistent with UNCLOS, and emphasised that any Code should not prejudice the rights or interests of states under international law or undermine existing regional architecture, and should strengthen the commitment of parties not to engage in actions that complicate or escalate disputes, notably militarisation of disputed features.

The US and Australia also reaffirmed their strong support for ASEAN, ASEAN-led regional architecture, and ASEAN’s Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, and applauded Vietnam, as the current ASEAN Chair, for its leadership of ASEAN in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

They reaffirmed that the Indo-Pacific is the focus of their alliance and that both countries are working side-by-side, including with ASEAN, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and Five Eyes partners, to strengthen their networked structure of alliances and partnerships to maintain a region that is secure, prosperous, inclusive, and rules-based.

They underscored the role of the East Asia Summit as the region's premier leaders-led forum for addressing political and security challenges. They welcomed and acknowledged the role of APEC, as the premier economic forum in the region, in strengthening the region’s resilience to future economic shocks and addressing health-related threats, particularly infectious diseases, to trade and investment in the region./.