Australia and Japan renew support for US in freedom of navigation in South China Sea

All 3 countries made it clear they will not allow the violation of the laws of the sea and other international laws in the South China Sea conflict in particular

U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan meets with Australian Minister for Defense Linda Reynolds and Japan’s Minister of Defense Takeshi Iwaya, at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue, Singapore, June 1, 2019. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

China received another strong message from a trilateral group of nations united in their shared commitment to do more together in support of security, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.

The importance of adherence to international law and their shared commitment to upholding freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea was also highlighted with serious concern about any action including militarization of disputed features in the seas that are destabilizing or dangerous.

“They emphasized the importance of the peaceful resolution of conflict in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and expressed strong opposition to the use of force or coercion to alter the status quo; calling instead for all countries in the region to take meaningful steps to ease tension and build trust.

“All sides called for the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea to be consistent with existing international law, as reflected in UNCLOS and to not prejudice the interests of third parties or the rights of all states under international law.

“All sides also called for the reinforcement of existing inclusive regional architecture and to strengthen parties’ commitments to cease actions that would complicate or escalate disputes,” said a joint press statement issued after the Shangri-La Dialogue meet in Singapore between the three countries’ defense ministers.

In the joint statement the three countries made it clear they will not allow the violation of the laws of the sea and other international laws in the South China Sea conflict in particular.

Australian Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds, Japanese Minister of Defense Takeshi Iwaya, and US Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, convened a trilateral defense ministerial meeting (the eighth among the three nations’ defense leaders) in Singapore on June 1 on the margins of the 18th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Asia Security Summit (2019 Shangri-La Dialogue).

The ministers were united in their shared commitment to do more together in support of security, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.

The ministers affirmed their shared vision for an Indo-Pacific region that is open, inclusive, rules based and respectful of sovereignty, where disputes are resolved peacefully and free of coercion.

The ministers recognized the importance of supporting Association of South East Asian Nations-led regional architecture and their support for Asean centrality which has played an instrumental role in establishing norms of behavior and habits of cooperation in the region.

The Australian and Japanese ministers welcomed the United States Indo-Pacific Strategy Report announced by Shanahan. The ministers agreed to continue to closely coordinate support to the region to maximize the benefits of their national and combined engagement activities in the region in a transparent, efficient and effective manner under their shared strategic vision.

Among the issues discussed, the ministers expressed expressed strong opposition to the use of any coercive unilateral actions that seek to alter the status quo or increase tensions in the East China Sea. They also expressed their intention to remain in close contact on the security situation in that area with a view to deter such actions.

The three nations will engage in a Strategic Action Agenda which articulates their vision for trilateral activities, and strong commitment to work both trilaterally and together with our regional partners.

To that end, they intend to pursue the following lines of effort:

Strengthen trilateral cooperation in the areas of maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, peacekeeping, counter-terrorism, amphibious activities, and non-conventional domains like space, cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum.

In close collaboration with regional partners, identify and coordinate opportunities to build partner capacity through regular information sharing, complementary programs and cooperative activities.

Increase the complexity and sophistication of trilateral exercises to enhance interoperability, build common understanding, and better enable our defence forces to work together to contribute to peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region.

Promote transparency, regional cooperation and the rule of law through port visits and other defense-related activities that demonstrate every nation’s right to freedom of navigation and overflight, in accordance with international law.

Improve common understanding and shared regional situational awareness through enhanced trilateral information sharing.

The three defense ministers commit to identifying new opportunities to further trilateral cooperation, with the objectives of maintaining and promoting a free, open, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific region. -/TISG