Australia, US say they oppose China’s claims to South China Sea

The US and Australia say they oppose China’s artificial island construction and militarisation of the South China Sea, saying China cannot use its economic power to “buy its way out” of problems.

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Speaking at a press conference following high-level talks with Australia’s foreign and defence ministers, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the long standing friends were committed to freedom of navigation in the contested sea and the rules based international order.

The allies also called for North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program and for China to step up its efforts to help.

“We desire productive relationships, but we cannot allow China to use its economic power to buy its way out of other problems, whether it’s militarizing islands in the South China Sea or failing to put appropriate pressure on North Korea,” Mr Tillerson said.

2 countries, 4 ministers: “We stand resolute” in our determination to fight terrorism. #AUSMIN pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/s5ZqaQ1xDu

— Nastasya Tay (@NastasyaTay) June 5, 2017

Mr Tillerson and US Defense Secretary James Mattis joined Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defence Minister Marise Payne for AusMin talks today.

The talks were dominated by challenges on the Korean Peninsula, conflict in the Middle East, terrorism, trade and investment, Ms Bishop said.

The ministers also reaffirmed the strong partnership between the two staunch allies, which was thrown into doubt following the election of Donald Trump as president.

Relations were strained after an acrimonious telephone call shortly after Mr Trump’s inauguration in which he reportedly berated Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refugee relocation deal.

“As you’ve already heard, we stand here before you representing the strongest possible military alliance,” Mr Mattis said.

“This is one that has stood together through thick and thin and through generations.”

President Trump entered office with a “America First” foreign policy, which has seen the US pursue a more isolationist role in the world and reassess some agreements entered into by the previous administration.

Asked about Mr Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change, Mr Tillerson said the president was not walking away from climate change.

“He’s not walking away from it – he’s simply walking away from an agreement he felt did not serve the American people well, Mr Tillerson said.

Bishop: #AUSMIN talks “productive, useful, important discussions between counterparts, between friends”.

— Nastasya Tay (@NastasyaTay) June 5, 2017