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Statement concerning recent actions in the South China Sea

International relations

The Australian Government shares the serious concerns of the Philippine Government about the actions conducted by China’s vessels against Philippine vessels and crew, including those engaged in routine resupply missions in the South China Sea on 5 and 23 March.

In both incidents, China’s vessels used water cannons and dangerous blocking manoeuvres resulting in injuries to crew and damage to Philippines resupply vessels. This is part of a pattern of deeply concerning behaviour by China which endangers the peace and security of the region, threatens lives and livelihoods, and creates risks of miscalculation and escalation.

Australia emphasises the importance of all states being able to exercise their rights and freedoms, including freedom of navigation, under international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Australia opposes destabilising and coercive actions in the South China Sea, such as unsafe encounters at sea and in the air and the militarisation of disputed features.

Australia calls for restraint, peace and stability in the South China Sea and reiterates that the 2016 South China Sea Arbitral Award is final and legally binding on the parties.

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