China flashes anger over Bishop remarks on ruling

China flashes anger over Bishop remarks on ruling

SBS World News Radio: China has lodged a formal protest over comments by Australia's foreign minister after an international court ruling on the South China Sea.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled this week China's territorial claims in the disputed region are illegal.

Julie Bishop has warned China its reputation would suffer if it ignored the decision, a warning which her Chinese counterpart says is shocking.

China has taken strong offence to the Australian government's response to the South China Sea ruling in The Hague, particularly the response from Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled this week China cannot claim what it calls "historic rights" to large areas of the sea.

Following the decision, Ms Bishop called on all parties involved to respect the ruling and resolve their disputes peacefully.

"Well, this is an important decision of international law. It's also an important test case for how the region can manage disputes peacefully. But we call on both the Philippines and China to respect the ruling, to abide by it. It is final and legally binding on both of them. And they are both parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. And we hope that all claimants take this opportunity to negotiate peacefully, based on the greater clarity of their maritime rights that this decision delivers, and bring their claims into line with international law."

Ms Bishop's comments reached Beijing and were met with disapproval by the Chinese government.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Lu Kang, was scathing in his response regarding both Ms Bishop and the ruling.

"Frankly speaking, I was shocked by the remarks from the foreign minister Bishop. Australia should not treat the illegal ruling from an illegal arbitration court as international law."

Julie Bishop says she believes the ruling will be a test for future peaceful solutions in the Asia-Pacific and how China can effectively handle its growing international status.

But Mr Lu says her remarks could fracture relations between Australia and China.

"Australia is not a party directly involved in the South China Sea issue. We hope Australia will set its position based on rights and wrongs and keep its commitment made in public to taking no position on sovereignty-claim disputes. We urge it to speak and act cautiously and not to do something to the detriment of regional peace, stability and security as well as China-Australia relations."

Australia's position mirrors the United States' response, which has also angered China.

China says it will not adhere to The Hague's findings.

Ms Bishop says Australian ships and aircraft will continue to exercise what she calls freedom-of-navigation rights in the region.

Speaking to the ABC, Defence Minister Marise Payne has defended Australia's position.

"We have consistently said that we support our own rights and the rights of other parties to operate in accordance with international law with respect to freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight. Of course, the position that we take is that we'll demonstrate our own commitment to those aspects in a manner of our own choosing and in a manner that suits both Australian and regional interests. The Foreign Minister, the Prime Minister and I have made comments that are completely consistent with our historical position. We have said all along that we looked forward to the ruling of the tribunal. Now that we have that ruling, we call on the parties who were involved in that particular negotiation to abide by it. We regard it as final and as binding."

China's criticism of Ms Bishop comes after she had rebuked Opposition defence spokesman Stephen Conroy for making what she called "irresponsible comments" over the matter.

Senator Conroy had suggested Australia should engage in military exercises near the disputed islands.

"China has been engaged in an aggressive and, at times, bullying performance and has now been called out by the international court. Australia supports the process. We don't make a judgment at any stage, but, if countries that are able to just sit back now and ignore the ruling and allow claims to be made that aren't recognised in law, then Australia will be in a situation where we have failed the test in supporting the international system."

Ms Bishop has said she expects to speak with her international counterparts in the coming days.

She says she expects the ruling to be discussed at the upcoming ASEAN and East Asia Summit meetings in mid-July.


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