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Aug 23, 2019 / 17:28

Australia PM concerned about harassment of oil operations in South China Sea

Both the prime ministers show concern about land reclamation and militarization of disputed features.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc have expressed serious concerns about recent developments in the South China Sea, including land reclamation and militarization of disputed features. 
Photo: VGP
Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Vietnam's PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc at the joint press briefing in Hanoi on August 23. Photo: VGP

The concerns are also in relation to long-standing oil and gas projects in the South China Sea which the two governments’ leaders showed during Scott Morrison’s visit to Hanoi on August 22-24.

The two prime ministers emphasized the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight, compliance with international law and maintaining a rules-based order in the joint statement released by the Australian prime minister’s news portal. 

They called on all parties to exercise self-restraint and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation. They also reaffirmed the need for states to resolve disputes peacefully, without the threat or use of force in accordance with international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). 

The prime ministers underscored the importance of UNCLOS dispute settlement mechanisms and called upon the parties to respect and implement the decisions rendered by these mechanisms. 

They reiterated the importance of the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). They called for any Code of Conduct between ASEAN and China to be fully consistent with international law, in particular UNCLOS, without prejudice to the interests of third parties or the rights of states under international law, and support existing inclusive regional architecture.

The statement is made in the context that Chinese survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 and escorts intruded into Vietnamese exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf in the South China Sea. The ships first encroached on Vietnam’s territorial waters in early July until August 7 then returned to the sea on August 13. 

The prime ministers emphasized that Vietnam and Australia are strategic partners, with a shared neighborhood and common outlook. They recognized each other’s increasing importance, both bilaterally and as partners in the Indo-Pacific as well as in the international community.

Australia will continue to support Vietnam’s international security contribution, including by the Australian Defense Force providing ongoing specialist peacekeeping training and strategic airlift support for Vietnam’s next peacekeeping deployment. 

Vietnam and Australia will also hold an annual Defense High Level Meeting at ministerial level as well as a separate Security Dialogue at vice-ministerial level, building on existing bilateral defense and security mechanisms. 

The two countries will broaden bilateral security cooperation, including in the maritime and cyber domains, and work together to combat transnational crime in Vietnam and Australia, including through increased border security cooperation and law enforcement activities.

Australia and Vietnam may have fought on opposite sides of a war, and have vastly different political systems, but they have a shared interest in ensuring the Asia-Pacific region remains stable and peaceful, according to ABC News.

For this reason, the two nations have been forging ever closer security ties and increasing their defense cooperation.

Last year, the Australian Defense Force trained and transported Vietnamese troops to South Sudan for the country's first peace-keeping mission.