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Australia, US stress importance of ensuring freedoms in East Sea

Australia and the US underlined the importance of countries’ ability to exercise their maritime rights and freedoms in the South China Sea (called East Sea in Vietnam), consistent with the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), including freedom of navigation and overflight and other internationally lawful uses of the sea related to these freedoms.

The two countries made the point in the Australia-US Ministerial Consultations Joint Statement, which was issued after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin hosted Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Women Marise Payne and Minister for Defence Peter Dutton of Australia in Washington D.C. on September 16 for the 31st Australia-US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN 2021).

Adherence to international law is essential for regional and international stability and prosperity, it stressed.

The officials conveyed concern regarding China’s expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea that are without legal basis. They called on China to implement relevant domestic legislation, including the Maritime Traffic Safety Law, in a manner consistent with UNCLOS, and reiterated that the 2016 Arbitral Award is final and legally binding on the parties.

They also reiterated their strong opposition to the militarization of disputed features and other destabilizing actions, including the dangerous use of coast guard and maritime militia, and efforts to disrupt other countries’ offshore resource exploitation activities./.