Australia insists on freedom of navigation over South China Sea

17 December 2015 (Last Updated December 17th, 2015 04:18)

Australia said that it has no plans to stop aerial surveillance over the disputed South China Sea, as it insists on freedom of navigation.

P-3

Australia said that it has no plans to stop aerial surveillance over the disputed South China Sea, as it insists on freedom of navigation.

The Australian Department of Defence confirmed that its P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft went on a routine maritime patrol over the South China Sea from 25 November to 4 December.

The confirmation comes days after a conversation between Australian pilots and Chinese officials over the region, emerged.

Radio communication between the two countries, heard by a BBC reporter, read: "China navy China navy we are an Australian aircraft exercising international freedom of navigation rights, in international airspace in accordance with the international civil aviation convention, and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, over."

Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne said on Thursday that the country will continue to carry out routine surveillance in accordance with international law.

"Surveillance is very important to the job that the Australian Defence Forces does.

"Some countries intentionally play up tension in the region so as to create disturbance and poke their noses into the South China Sea affairs."

"We always navigate in a very constructive way in the region," she added.

China has reacted by saying that navigation on the South China Sea is not a problem, but the countries, especially those who are outside the region, need to watch their actions.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said: "Some countries intentionally play up tension in the region so as to create disturbance and poke their noses into the South China Sea affairs.

"The Chinese side is firmly opposed to that."

China has been developing artificial islands and infrastructure, such as a runway, on the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, amid opposition from the other countries in the region, including Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan.

When the US conducted its freedom of operations in the sea in October, Australia supported the move, but said that it was not involved in the mission.

Nearly 6% of Australia's exports pass through the South China Sea.


Image: A P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force has flown over the South China Sea. Photo: courtesy of Commonwealth of Australia.