fredag 31. juli 2020

Australia Abandons Its Neutrality on the South China Sea Maritime Disputes

Australia, a state party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), has long maintained that it was neutral with respect to maritime disputes in the South China Sea. Australia’s submission of a Note Verbale to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLSC) on July 23 changed previous policy and came in the wake of a major change in U.S. policymade by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo 10 days earlier.

Australia jumped from its perch of neutrality to align itself with the United States in supporting UNCLOS and the 2016 Award by the Arbitral Tribunal that heard the case brought by the Philippines against China. However, Australia went further and was more precise in its rejection of the legal basis of China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea.

For example, Australia rejected China’s assertion that its sovereignty claims over the Paracel and Spratly islands were “widely recognized by the international community.” Australia took note of protests by Vietnam and the Philippines to document its case. This is the first time the Paracel Islands had been mentioned in a string of Notes Verbales submitted to the CLCS since December 2019.