The bruising diplomatic war between Canberra and Beijing reached New Delhi Friday with the envoys of the two countries sparring over the situation in the South China Sea.
Australian High Commissioner to India Barry O’Farrell, who met External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar Thursday, targeted China over the situation along the Line of Actual Control, saying “Australia opposes any attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo, which only serve to increase tension and the risk of instability.”
On Friday, O’Farrell said Canberra remains “deeply concerned” by “actions” in the South China Sea that are “destabilising” and could “provoke escalation”.
While he did not name China, it was clear he was referring to Beijing’s aggressive behaviour in the South China Sea.
What followed was a public spat between the Chinese and Australian envoys on Twitter.
Sun Weidong, Chinese ambassador to India, tweeted, “Noted remarks by Australian HC to India on South China Sea disregarding facts. China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests are in conformity with international law including UNCLOS. It’s clear who safeguard peace and stability and who destabilize and provoke escalation in the region.”
Replying to Sun, O’Farrell tweeted, “Thank you @China_Amb_India. I would hope then you follow the 2016 South China Sea Arbitral Award which is final and binding under international law, and also generally refrain from actions that unilaterally alter the status quo.”
On July 23, Australia lodged a note with the UN Secretary General refuting China’s unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea: “It rejects China’s claim to historic rights and internal waters, its assertion of certain maritime zones, and its contention there is wide international recognition of its South China Sea sovereignty claims.”
On Thursday, after meeting Jaishankar, O’Farrell said: “Australia urges restraint along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and supports continued moves towards de-escalation. As I told the External Affairs Minister of India today, Australia opposes any attempts to unilaterally alter the status quo, which only serve to increase tension and the risk of instability.”
“It is important that the bilaterally-agreed principles and norms that have helped prevent escalation or miscalculation in the border areas over many decades continue to be observed,” he said.
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