South China Sea: Chinese Air Force carries out training
Tensions in the South China Sea have increased to unprecedented levels. Beijing’s war threat came after Taiwanese reports of a “large incursion” by Chinese warplanes on Sunday for the second day in a row.
China claimed its military forces were acting in response to provocation and foreign interference.
A spokesperson for the Australian Department of Defence said: “Australian vessels and aircraft will continue to exercise rights under international law to freedom of navigation and overflight, including in the South China Sea, and we support others doing the same.
“On Taiwan, we are aware of the situation and continue to monitor developments.”
China has claimed a large part of the South China Sea as its own which has triggered territorial disputes.
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Beijing also claims ownership of Taiwan under its “One China” policy which demands there is only one sovereign state under the name China.
Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said at a press briefing that Taiwan was an inseparable part of China.
He said: “The military activities carried out by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in the Taiwan Strait are necessary actions to address the current security situation in the Taiwan Strait and to safeguard national sovereignty and security.”
Mr Wu added: “They are a solemn response to external interference and provocations by ‘Taiwan independence’ forces.”
The spokesman also claimed a “handful” of people in Taiwan were seeking independence from China.
He continued: “We warn those ‘Taiwan independence’ elements: those who play with fire will burn themselves, and ‘Taiwan independence’ means war.”
Australia’s comments came in response to questions about the arrival of a US aircraft carrier in the South China Sea.
The Chinese warplane incursions over Taiwan coincided with a US carrier battle group entering the South China Sea to promote “freedom of the seas”.
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Australia was also questioned over whether the new Biden administration had requested joint exercises in the disputed waters.
The Government has stuck to the position of not commenting on the specific details of Australian Defence Force operations.
Australia’s defence minister, Linda Reynolds, spoke to her US counterpart, Lloyd Austin, on Wednesday.
Ms Reynolds said that Australia and the US would “continue to work side by side with allies and partners to maintain a region that is secure, prosperous, inclusive and rules-based”.
In a Pentagon statement, the US defence secretary was said to have “emphasised the importance of maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific, founded on existing international law and norms in a region free of malign behaviour”.
Tensions between Australia and China have increased in recent months over the disputed waters.
Last month, Greg Moriarty, the head of Australia’s defence department, said Beijing had acted in a “disturbing” way and complicated Australia’s security in the South China Sea.
Mr Moriarty also claimed that a number of countries in the Indo-Pacific were anxious about the future of peace and stability in the waters.
US President Joe Biden was sworn into the White House last week.
During his first full week in office, Mr Biden has called several world leaders and is expected to contact the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.
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