Envoys of Australia and China clash on Twitter over sovereignty claims in South China Sea

Agencies. Updated: 7/31/2020 7:17:55 PM National

New Delhi: The envoys of Australia and China on Friday clashed on Twitter over sovereignty claims in South China Sea.
It began with China’s Ambassador to India Sun Weidong tweeting that Australian High Commissioner to India Barry O’ Farrell was disregarding facts in his comments on South China Sea and that China’s claims were based on UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas).
O’ Farrell thanked Sun for his comments and hoped that if UNCLOS was the benchmark for settling disputes, China would follow the 2016 South China Sea Arbitral Award which is final and binding under international law.
He also wanted China to generally refrain from actions that unilaterally alter the status quo.
South China Sea, however, may not have been the only issue that had troubled the Chinese envoy.
On Thursday, when Sun was explaining his country’s position on the Galwan Valley clashes at a conference, O’ Farrell met External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and released a statement on which he also dwelt on the LAC tensions.
The Chinese envoy avoided commenting on O’ Farrell’s part of the statement that said Australia opposed any attempt to unilaterally alter the status quo at the line of actual control (LAC), as that will increase tension and the risk of instability.
Sun trained his fire on the South China Sea part of the statement by the Australian High Commissioner since Canberra has recently spoken on the issue twice.
On July 23, Australia lodged a note with the UN Secretary General refuting China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea.
More recently, the joint statement released after the Australia-US Two plus Two (Defence and Foreign Ministers of both countries) used identical words for the 2016 decision of the Arbitral Tribunal – “it is final and binding on both parties”.
The joint statement had also said the Indo-Pacific is the focus of the US-Australia Alliance and that the US and Australia are working side-by-side, including with ASEAN, India, Japan, Korea and Five Eyes partners to strengthen alliances and partnerships.

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