Australia upset over China's military buildup on South China Sea

Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull calls China’s military deployments on South China Sea 'counterproductive'

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

Chinese dredging vessels seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

Australian Prime Minister Turnbull on Wednesday called military moves on South China Sea made by China, the country's biggest trading partner, “counterproductive”.

"They are ... counterproductive, regardless of the legal merits, on which we do not express a view nor make a claim," Turnbull said in a speech in Sydney, referring to China's military deployments.

China deployed fighter jets to the same contested island on the South China Sea and also sent surface-to-air missiles in February.

The US also accused China raising maritime claims and tensions on South China Sea.

As a reaction to the accusations, Chinese Foreign Ministry stated that the country’s deployment in the South China Sea is no different from US deployments in Hawaii, adding that there will not be a backdown of military deployments.

Furthermore, a senior US naval officer reported in February that Australia and other countries should follow the US lead and conduct "freedom-of-navigation" naval operations within 12 nautical miles (18 km) of contested islands in the South China Sea.

Australia has consistently supported US-led freedom of navigation activities in the South China Sea.

Chinese government last month expressed it’s displeasure with Australia’s defence spending plan on South China Sea.

Besides China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan also have claims on the South China Sea, where more than $5 trillion in global trade passes every year.

Malaysia and Australia will meet next week to discuss China's military build-up in the disputed South China Sea and hold talks with fellow claimants the Philippines and Vietnam.

China has controlled all of the Paracels, which are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan, since the mid-1970s after the end of the Vietnam War.

TRTWorld and agencies