Australian High Commissioner to India Barry O'Farrell on Wednesday expressed concern over Beijing's action in South China Sea that "could provoke escalation".
"We remain deeply concerned by actions in South China Sea that are destabilising and could provoke escalation," he said. "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."
Australia has joined the United States in stating that China's claims in the South China Sea do not comply with international law. The US this month rejected China's claims to offshore resources in most of the South China Sea, drawing criticism from China which said the US position raised tension in the region.
Australia, in its declaration filed at the United Nations, said it too rejected China’s maritime claims around contested islands in the South China Sea as being inconsistent with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
China claims 90% of the potentially energy-rich waters but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also lay claim to parts of it. About $3 trillion worth of trade passes through the waterway each year. China has built bases atop atolls in the region but says its intentions are peaceful.
Australia has long advocated for freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and for all claimants to resolve their differences in compliance with international laws.