NEW DELHI: A Twitter spat between the Chinese and Australian envoys to India over the South China Sea highlighted regional tensions as China’s refusal to abide by the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea) arbitral award, and its recent aggressive actions in the area, have raised concerns among several countries in its neighbourhood.
Responding to Australian high commissioner Barry O’Farrell’s remarks on Thursday expressing concern over Chinese actions, Chinese ambassador Sun Weidong tweeted, “…China’s territorial sovereignty, maritime rights and interests are in conformity with international law, including UNCLOS. It’s clear who safeguard peace and stability and who destabilise and provoke escalation in the region.”
O’Farrell responded, “I would hope then you follow the 2016 South China Sea arbitral award which is final and binding under international law, and also generally refrain from actions that unilaterally alter the status quo.” The award upheld the Philippines’s maritime entitlements and the status of features in the South China Sea and held China’s nine-dash line claim as having no validity under international law.
On Thursday, the Australian envoy in a readout of his meeting with foreign minister S Jaishankar said about the situation on the LAC, “Australia opposes any attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo, which only serve to increase tension and the risk of instability.”
But he took a tougher stand on South China Sea. “Australia remains deeply concerned by actions in the South China Sea that are destabilising and could provoke escalation. On July 23, Australia lodged a note with the UN secretary general refuting China’s unlawful maritime claims… It rejects China’s claim…”
Australia has joined a number of other countries to comment on Malaysia’s claim in December 2019 regarding its continental shelf in the northern part of the South China Sea. China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and the United States have all responded.


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