Sydney (VNA) – Australian and UK foreign and defence ministers underscored the importance of countries being able to exercise their maritime rights and freedoms in the East Sea consistent with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), including freedom of navigation and overflight, at the annual ministerial consultations in 2022.
In a joint statement on January 21, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and Minister for Defence Peter Dutton together with UK Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Elizabeth Truss and Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace reiterated their strong opposition to actions that raise tensions, including the militarisation of disputed features, the dangerous use of coast guard and maritime militia and efforts to disrupt other countries’ utilisation of their offshore resources.
They reiterated that the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal decision relating to the East Sea is final and binding on the parties. Both sides emphasised that any Code of Conduct must fully accord with international law, in particular the UNCLOS, not prejudice the rights or interests of States under international law or undermine existing inclusive regional architecture. Maritime claims, and the implementation of domestic legislation must be consistent with the UNCLOS.
In the joint statement, the ministers renewed their support for an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific region in which the sovereign rights of all nations are respected. They reaffirmed their commitment to working with partners to shape a region underpinned by rules and norms and that is free from coercion, and where disputes are settled peacefully and in accordance with international law.
The two sides welcomed the enhancement of their countries’ relationships with ASEAN, including the establishment of an ASEAN-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and the UK’s new status as an official ASEAN Dialogue Partner. Australia and the UK strongly support ASEAN centrality, ASEAN-led regional architecture, and practical implementation of ASEAN’s Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, they said./.