Australia would be unwise to conduct a very provocative freedom of navigation exercise in the South China Sea, an adviser to China’s government says.
Ruan Zongze, a member of an advisory committee to the Chinese government, said freedom of navigation as pursued by the US had gone far beyond what was permitted under international law and Australia shouldn’t follow.
He said he could not prejudge China’s reaction were Australia to conduct a freedom of navigation exercise in that zone.
“It would be unwise, it would be wrong and it will be devastating for Australia to join that kind of very dangerous exercise. You take a position to challenge China’s sovereignty,” he told Sky News.
Mr Ruan said China recognised that Australia was a close ally of the US.
“However, America is not always right,” he said pointing to the recent British inquiry into the Iraq war which showed the US made many mistakes.
“It would be dangerous for America and maybe for its ally to pursue a kind of very provocative so-called freedom of navigation (exercise).”
China claims virtually all of the South China Sea and has inflamed regional tensions when it started building its own islands on disputed reefs, adding airstrips, radar and communications and defence systems, plus troops.
It’s rejected the recent Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling, insisting this is sovereign territory and a 12-nautical mile territorial limit applies.
So far the US Navy has conducted three freedom of navigation exercises, sailing within the 12-nautical mile limit.
Mr Ruan said China was not rejecting freedom of navigation according to international law.
“However, at the same when you exercise this freedom of navigation you should not undermine in any way the sovereignty and the legitimate concerns of the littoral countries,” he said.