Australian envoy slams China for second straight day

New Delhi (NVI): For the second straight day, Australian High Commissioner to India Barry O’Farrell took on China over its attempts to “unilaterally alter the status quo”, be it in South China Sea or on the Ladakh border with India.

Farrell’s outburst came in the form of a tweet after Chinese Ambassador India Sun Weidong tweeted criticism of his comments made yesterday against China’s actions in Ladakh and in South China Sea.

“Noted remarks by Australian HC to India on #SouthChinaSea disregarding facts. #China’s territorial sovereignty & maritime rights & interests are in conformity w/int’l  law incl UNCLOS. It’s clear who safeguard peace & stability & who destabilize & provoke escalation in the region,” Sun tweeted.

Soon after, the Australian envoy responded with the tweet: “Thank you @China_Amb_India. I would hope then you follow the 2016 South China Sea Arbitral Award which is final and binding under international law, and also generally refrain from actions that unilaterally alter the status quo.”

The Chinese Ambassador was referring to the remarks made by O’Farrell yesterday in which he slammed China, saying any unilateral attempt by Beijing to change the status quo on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India would “increase tension and the risk of instability”.

The Australian had said China should observe the bilaterally-agreed principles and norms that have helped “prevent escalation or miscalculation” in the border areas with India over many decades.

In a statement, O’Farrell had said, “Australia urges restraint along LAC and supports continued moves towards de-escalation.”

O’Farrell said he has told India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar that, “Australia opposes any attempts by China to unilaterally alter status-quo at the Line of Actual Control, which only serve to increase tension and the risk of instability.”

The Australian High Commissioner had also referred to the Indo-Pacific region where China has stepped up its aggression lately, saying his country favours open, free and rules-based region.

“Territorial disputes and competing claims should be resolved peacefully by claimant countries and in ways consistent with international law,” he added.

Australia is one of the several countries in the Indo-Pacific region which are upset and angry with China over the latter’s assertiveness in the South China Sea, over which Beijing lays absolute claim in violation of international maritime laws and rules.

The statement by O’Farrell yesterday came as the military faceoff continues on the LAC, with China refusing to move back its troops and disengage completely.

India has maintained that China should sincerely undertake complete disengagement and de-escalation as agreed during several rounds of talks, including at the level of National Security Adviser.