Australia’s PM Malcolm Turnbull, September 5, 2016
By Liam Cochrane
Malcolm Turnbull has said every country in the region has a vested interest in peacefully resolving territorial disputes in East Asia and the South China Sea.
The Prime Minister has just attended the East Asia Summit in Laos, where more powerful nations, such as China, Russia and Japan, met with the South East Asian countries of ASEAN.
Two intensifying disputes over territory dominated the talks.
The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all stand against China, which claims the South China Sea on historical terms, as illustrated by a vague map made up of nine dashes.
Mr Turnbull said that while China’s allies within ASEAN — Cambodia, Laos and Brunei — were able to moderate any criticism of Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea, the East Asia Summit may offer a more open discussion.
There are efforts to establish a code of conduct between China and the other claimants but Malcolm Turnbull said a breakthrough was not expected any time soon.
“Progress is slow but there is, I would say, a sense of cautious optimism that agreement can be reached on the code of conduct,” he said.
An international court in The Hague recently found that China has no legal basis for its claim against the Philippines, but it is a ruling that China refuses to recognise.
“The decision in The Hague is a fact, it is a reality,” Mr Turnbull said.
“What we seek is that the rulings of international tribunals, including this one, are respected.”
The East Asia Summit also brings together Japan and China — the two parties at odds over the East Asia Sea.
In a meeting on Wednesday with Mr Turnbull, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described the East Asia Sea as an increasingly severe security environment.
“We have seen in our region for 40 years in relative peace and relative harmony, relative to the rest of the world,” Mr Turnbull said.
“That has been the foundation, the essential foundation, on which so much prosperity has been built.
Mr Turnbull held bilateral meetings with the leaders of Indonesia, China and Vietnam on Thursday.
The issue of Vietnam cancelling Australian memorials for the battle of Long Tan was raised and both leaders agreed that the details of future events should be settled in advance to avoid future misunderstandings.
The Prime Minister will soon depart for Micronesia where he will be attending the Pacific Leaders Forum.
China: No Need To Push So-Called South China Sea “Arbitration” — ASEAN nations have realized that the issues in the region should be solved through dialogues and consultations among the countries in the region
China Coast Guard — In this photo released by the 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters of Japan, a Chinese coastguard vessel sails near the disputed islands in the East China Sea on August 6, 2016. Japan said this ship was watching over more than 200 Chinese fishing boats fishing illegally in Japanese waters. AP
China J-11 Flanker fighters operating from Woody Island located in the northern portion of the South China Sea. Vietnam, the Philippines and other nations have complained about China’s militarization in the South China Sea
Vietnam fishing boat — A fishing boat from Quang Ngai province with six sailors on board was sunk by Chinese vessels on while fishing near the Paracel (Hoang Sa) Islands, on or about 10 July 2016. Than Nien photo
Sinocentrism (中華思想) Criticized — “Chinese have a casual Disregard for Vietnamese and Filipinos as Human Beings”