France, Aust naval exercises near China

France and Australia will conduct joint naval exercises in the South China Sea as part of a commitment to freedom of navigation in the region.

Australia and France are planning joint naval exercises in the South China Sea in a bid to maintain freedom of navigation conventions in the contested region.

Following China's decision to build man-made islands in the sea and militarise them, Australia has been pushing for freedom of navigation conventions to keep applying despite rising tensions.

French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly met Defence Minister Christopher Pyne on Monday and they discussed the future of Franco-Australian naval co-operation.

"Both Australia and France share a common view, which is that the South China Sea is international waters and that we are entitled to navigate as we see fit," Mr Pyne told reporters on Monday.

Mr Pyne said Australia had increased its naval exercises with other countries in the South China Sea in recent times.

"We are looking forward to doing so with France in coming years, in terms of a group working together in one particular formation that is multi-flagged," he said.

"We reserve the right to operate in the South China Sea with other nations completely peacefully, and we don't see any reason why any country should see that as a particular threat to their sovereignty."

Ms Parly said France was not taking a side over who controlled the South China Sea.

"But we want to make sure that the free maritime sailing right is assured and guaranteed so that's why we sail several times a year," she told reporters.

She said the region was a topic for future discussions with Mr Pyne.

"How we could, together, better co-ordinate what we're doing in the South China Sea because we are very conscious that China is more and more receptive," she said.

Source AAP

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