China has warned relations with Australia are at risk amid South China Sea tensions (Reuters: Guang Niu)
Australia has been issued with an unusually blunt warning from China — stay out of the South China Sea or risk damage to bilateral relations.
- China calls UN tribunal ruling it has no claim over the South China Sea a farce
- Mr Lu Kang warns Australia not to treat international law as a game
- China says it will decisively respond against anyone who takes provocations against its security interests in the South China Sea
China’s Foreign Ministry has said it was shocked by remarks Foreign Minister Julie Bishop made on AM on Wednesday, that China should abide by the UN ruling and Australia would continue freedom of navigation exercises.
China has called the UN tribunal that ruled it has no claim over the South China Sea a farce, an American conspiracy and the ruling a piece of waste paper.
Now it has turned its fiery rhetoric and threats towards Australia and Ms Bishop.
Lu Kang, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Ms Bishop’s assertion that China should abide by the decision and that it was final and legally binding was wrong.
“Frankly speaking, I was shocked by the remarks from the Foreign Minister Bishop,” he said.
“Australia should not treat the illegal ruling from an illegal arbitration court as international law.”
He warned Ms Bishop’s declaration, that Australia would continue freedom of navigation flights and patrols in the South China Sea, would threaten bilateral relations.
“Australia is not a party to the South China Sea issue.
“We hope Australia should firmly abide by the promise not to hold a position when there is a territorial dispute.
“Carefully talk and cautiously behave. Australia should not do anything which will damage regional peace, stability and security as well as the relations between China and Australia.”
The Chinese are angered that Ms Bishop claimed China’s reputation as a rising superpower could suffer if it ignored the decision.
Mr Lu Kang warned Australia should not treat international law as a game.
“China has lodged serious representations to Australia regarding the wrong remarks delivered by the Australian leaders,” he said.
“We are firmly against this.”
And in more threats, China said it would decisively respond against anyone who takes provocations against its security interests in the South China Sea.
China has said it has the right to establish an air defence zone to protect its interests and any freedom of navigation flights or patrols by Australia will be seen in Beijing as a direct challenge.
Vietnam, China, Malaysia have eyes on the prize
Explore the conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea
|Rich in resources and traversed by a quarter of global shipping, the South China Sea is the stage for several territorial disputes that threaten to escalate tensions in the region.
At the heart of these disputes are a series of barren islands in two groups – the Spratly Islands, off the coast of the Philippines, and the Paracel Islands, off the coasts of Vietnam and China.
|Both chains are essentially uninhabitable, but are claimed by no fewer than seven countries, eager to gain control of the vast oil and gas fields below them, as well as some of the region’s best fishing grounds.
Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei have made claims to part of the Spratlys based on the internationally recognised Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which extends 200 hundred nautical miles from a country’s coastline.
|Based on the EEZ, the Philippines has the strongest claim on the Spratlys and their resources, with its EEZ covering much of the area.
However the lure of resources, and prospect of exerting greater control over shipping in the region, means that greater powers are contesting the Philippines’ claims.
|China has made extensive sovereignty claims on both the Spratlys and the Paracels to the north, based largely on historic claims outlined in a map from the middle part of the 20th Century known as the ‘Nine Dash Map’.
Taiwan also makes claims based on the same map, as it was created by the nationalist Kuomintang government, which fled to Taiwan after the communists seized power in China.
|Vietnam also claims the Spratlys and the Paracels as sovereign territory, extending Vietnam’s EEZ across much of the region and bringing it into direct conflict with China.
There have been deadly protests in Vietnam over China’s decision to build an oil rig off the Paracels.
One Chinese worker in Vietnam was killed and a dozen injured in riots targeting Chinese and Taiwanese owned factories, prompting 3,000 Chinese nationals to flee the country.
|EEZ can only be imposed based on boundaries of inhabitable land, and this has prompted all the countries making claims on the region to station personnel, and in some cases build military bases out of the water, to bolster their claim.
Building and protecting these structures has resulted in a series of stand-offs between countries in the region, each with the potential to escalate.
China has been leading the charge with these installations, and has deployed vessels to the region to protect their interests.
Chinese coast guard vessels have used a water cannon on Vietnamese vessels, as well as blockading an island where the Philippines has deployed military personnel.