Chinese Navy Confronts Australian Vessels In South China Sea
[quote] A former senior Chinese diplomat has warned Australia’s relationship with Beijing will suffer if the Turnbull Government orders the military to join the US in conducting freedom of navigation patrols in disputed waters in the South China Sea.
Retired ambassador Chen Shiqiu said there was a risk of rival forces clashing as China defended its security and territorial integrity.
He urged Australia not to “blindly” follow the US lead in the South China Sea.
Tensions in the region have risen in the past week after China angrily rejected an international court’s ruling it had no legal basis to claims of sovereignty over large parts of the South China Sea after a case brought by the Philippines.
VIDEO[url=https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/video/watch/32049628/south-china-sea-ruling-angers-taiwan/] South China Sea ruling angers Taiwan[/url]
Australia takes no position on the claims and has urged all parties to act with restraint and abide by the court’s ruling.
Mr Chen, a former ambassador to the United Nations, is visiting Australia as part of a delegation of Chinese scholars and spoke to media at a briefing organised by the Chinese Embassy in Canberra.
He said the tribunal had made “serious mistakes” in its ruling, arguing it lacked jurisdiction to hear the case, its impartiality was questionable and committed a “gross violation” of China’s rights to freely choose the means of how the dispute could be settled.
While China has been criticised for its aggressive reclamation and militarisation of islands, Mr Chen blamed the US for stepping up its military presence in the region to “sow discord” between China and ASEAN countries.
This included stationing troops in the Philippines, and increasingly Australia, and sending warships, submarines and planes to patrol close to islands Beijing claimed. “In my view, the root causes of tension in the South China Sea was because of the American intervention,” Mr Chen said.
Some defence experts and Labor frontbencher Stephen Conroy want the Federal Government to join the US in patrolling within the 12 nautical mile limit of disputed islands or flying over them to show they do not recognise Chinese claims.
But Mr Chen said though he understood Australia was close allies with the US, he hoped Australia would not join this “dangerous exercise”, warning it could damage the “partnership” with China.
“You do not have any reason. It would not be in your interests to do that,” he said.
“You have to choose what is wrong, what is right, not to follow the US blindly.”
Mr Chen said it was not China’s intention to clash with US forces but that depended on the attitude of the US, with Australia in a position to offer good advice to its “big brother” to stop carrying out patrols.
“But our tolerance also has limits,” he said.
“We are determined to defend our territorial integrity and sovereignty, and I believe we have the capacity to do that.”