New Delhi, Sept 3: Australia has warned against “intimidation and aggression” in the disputed waters of South China Sea and maintained that India’s role was crucial to stability in the Indian Ocean region.
Severely critical of Chinese military assertiveness in the South China Sea, visiting Australian Defence Minister Kevin Andrews called for deeper defence ties with “key strategic partner” India and pitched for a quadrilateral naval exercise with Japan and the US as was done in 2007.
He expressed concern that “tensions in the Indo-Pacific persist, and in some cases are becoming more acute”, adding that Australia recognises India’s “critical role” in supporting the security, stability and prosperity of the Indian Ocean region.
“Territorial disputes continue to risk regional stability and create uncertainty. One issue that has attracted a lot of international attention in recent months is the South China Sea.
Delivering a lecture at Defence Ministry-run think tank IDSA here on Wednesday, Andrews said: “Australia strongly opposes the use of intimidation, aggression or coercion to advance any country’s claims or to unilaterally alter the status quo. We are particularly concerned about the possible militarisation of features in the South China Sea.”
Taking an apparent dig at China, he said turning a reef into a military airport is not in anyway enhancing the security and peace of that region.
China is said to be building an island at least 3,000 m long on Fiery Cross Reef that could be the site for its first airstrip in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
South China Sea, a disputed area with China and several countries in the region including Vietnam and the Philippines staking territorial claims, is witnessing military tensions amid increasing Chinese assertiveness.
Noting that both India and Australia border the Indian Ocean, he said they have a shared interest in the maintenance of freedom of navigation and trade.
(With Agency Inputs)