HomeWorldASEAN, Australia call for peace after tensions in the South China Sea

ASEAN, Australia call for peace after tensions in the South China Sea

ASEAN, Australia call for peace after tensions in the South China Sea

Sydney, AUSTRALIA (DT) – Leaders of the ASEAN bloc and Australia made a joint statement calling for peace and stability in the region. China claims the entire South China sea and has been aggressive towards ships from other nations.

Leaders from the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Australia issued a joint statement on Wednesday, expressing concerns over actions that could threaten peace in the South China Sea. This statement follows recent tensions between Beijing and the Philippines in disputed waters.

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“We affirm the importance of maintaining the South China Sea as a region of peace, stability, and prosperity. We urge all parties to refrain from unilateral actions that may undermine peace, security, and stability in the area,” the nations emphasized in their collective statement, advocating for a “rules-based” order in the Indo-Pacific region.

In response, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry stated, “We are committed to properly managing differences with relevant countries and fully implementing agreements with ASEAN nations.”

ASEAN member states participated in special discussions in Melbourne commemorating 50 years of ties with Australia. In a joint declaration issued at the end of the summit, leaders underscored the importance of “avoiding actions that could escalate the risk of accidents, misunderstandings, and miscalculations.”

Escalating tensions in the South China Sea

This declaration follows a recent clash between Chinese and Philippine vessels in disputed waters. According to Philippine authorities, two China Coast Guard vessels sprayed water cannons at a Philippine Navy-chartered boat, causing damage and minor injuries to four personnel on board.

According to authorities, one of the two Chinese coast guard vessels also collided with a Philippine Coast Guard ship, as reported on Tuesday.

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The coordinated patrols occur amidst increasing confrontations between the Philippines and China in the South China Sea. Photo: Joeal Calupitan/AP

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese addressed the media in Melbourne following the summit, expressing Canberra’s concern over the “unsafe and destabilizing behavior.” He characterized the actions as “dangerous,” highlighting the risk of “miscalculation, which can then lead to escalations.”

Among ASEAN members, there are varying opinions regarding China’s assertive behavior and expanding presence in the broader region. This diversity arises due to Beijing’s significant economic influence there.

During a joint press conference with Albanese on Monday, Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim stated that “if other nations have issues with China, they should not impose them on us.” This remark alluded to claims of “China-phobia” in the West.

Australia maintains longstanding ties with ASEAN, whose member states collectively represent Canberra’s second-largest two-way trading partner.

ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Myanmar, which has been under military rule since a coup in February 2021, was notably absent from the summit’s primary meeting. East Timor participated as an observer, engaging in discussions focused on trade, clean energy, and maritime security.

During the summit, Australia unveiled plans for a AU$64 million ($41 million) investment to enhance maritime cooperation with ASEAN nations. Additionally, Australia committed AU$2 billion to a fund aimed at supporting regional projects, particularly in infrastructure and transitioning to clean energy.

In response to the summit’s declaration, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning stated in Beijing that China will “continue to properly handle differences with relevant parties through dialogue and consultation.” China reiterated its commitment to collaborating with ASEAN countries to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea.

The disputes over the contested waters involve not only China and the Philippines but also Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Taiwan.

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