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China and Australia are at loggerheads over Mr Morrison’s accusations Beijing covered-up the coronavirus outbreak when it first broke out in Wuhan – Beijing has denied the claim and insists in did not cover-up the virus. The Australia Prime Minister sent a letter to the UN saying China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea were “inconsistent” with international law. The letter stated: “The Australian Government rejects any claims by China that are inconsistent with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), in particular, maritime claims that do not adhere to its rules on baselines, maritime zones, and classification of features.”
Australian opposition leader Anthony Albanese also backed Mr Morrison’s position on the South China Sea.
On Friday Mr Albanese told reporters: “Australia needs to defend the Australian national interest, and we also need to stand up for international law.
“And the international law of the sea provides for freedom of navigation, which is absolutely critical to international trade.”
The letter also highlighted Beijing’s controversial nine-dash line claim in the resource-rich South China Sea.
The nine-dash line refers to the contested area in the South China Sea that includes the Paracel Islands, the Spratly Islands, and various other areas small islets that China has built fortified structures on.
The whole area is contested by the regional powers that surround it.
This includes the Philippines, Vietnam, China, and Taiwan.
China has called the range of fortified islands the “Great Wall of Sand”.
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About Australia’s move to send a letter to the UN ABC Defence Correspondent Andrew Greene tweeted: “On the same week it emerged that Australian warships had encountered the Chinese military near the disputed Spratly Islands, the federal government has joined the US informally rejecting China’s expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea at the United Nations.
“So far China hasn’t reacted to this move, but it’s fair to assume Beijing’s response won’t be meek”
Australia has called on all claimants to the disputed region to act in accordance with international maritime law.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison follows the US in condemning Beijing’s systematic military expansion in the region.
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Earlier this month China announced the US position on the South China Sea had “neglected the history and facts”.
China has used historic maps to suggest that it has had control over the region for centuries.
In 1982 the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea ruled that China had no legal basis to claim “historic rights” over the South China Sea.
This legal case was brought to the UN by the Philippines.
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