Australia calls on South China Sea claimants to stop reclamation, militarization
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - January 21, 2016 - 11:08pm

MANILA, Philippines - Australia called on all nations with overlapping claims in the South China Sea to stop building artificial islands and avoid militarization in the region.

"We urge all parties, not just China, to refrain from further construction on those islands or reefs, and to refrain from militarization," Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in a speech during the Martin Luther King Day in the United States.

Turnbull clarified that Australia does not have claims in the disputed sea and does not make any judgment on the legitimacy of any of the competing claims.

The Australian leader noted that the competing claims are a threat to the peace and good order in the region.

He said that the differences among claimant states should be resolved by international law.

"That is why Australia attended, as observers, the merits hearing in The Hague last November, in the case brought by the Philippines under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea," Turnbull said.

Turnbull stressed that the legitimacy of claims to the reefs and shoals in the South China Sea should be a secondary consideration on the objective of preserving international order.

"So central is the Asia Pacific to the world economy, to global stability, that the preservation of the international order and the peace that it brings has been a consistent and absolutely central objective of both the United States and Australia," the Australian leader said.

Turnbull admitted that all nations would agree that the world has benefited from China's rise but the disruption and instability in the region is a threat.

READ: China denies militarization in South China Sea

"We would hope that China’s actions would be carefully calculated to make conflict less likely, not more, and would seek to reassure neighbours of and build their confidence in China’s intention," Turnbull said.

The Australian Prime Minister said that he is looking forward to the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands on the case of the Philippines against China's nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.

Turnbull also said that he is looking forward to the US ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

"The US already observes the treaty, which is a product of American leadership and crucial for resolving potential flashpoints in many parts of the globe.  Non-ratification diminishes American leadership where it is most needed," the Australian Prime Minister said.

RELATED: US, Australia warn China on sea access | China warns Australia not to take sides on sea row

ASIA PACIFIC AUSTRALIA AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER MALCOLM TURNBULL CHINA LAW OF THE SEA MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY QUOT SEA SOUTH CHINA SEA TURNBULL
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