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Australia to continue to support freedom of navigation in South China sea: scott morrison

Canberra: Australia will continue to advocate "very strongly" for the freedom of navigation through the South China Sea, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday.

"Australia has played a very constructive role in relation to the South China Sea. We had an observer status when the matter was being considered and we've continued to advocate very strongly for freedom of navigation through those waters and we've been very supportive whether it's been of Indonesia or I remember standing next to Prime Minister Phuc in Vietnam and commending him on the strong position that he has taken when it is in relation to their interests being compromised in relation to the South China Sea." Morrison told a media briefing in Canberra when asked if the country backed the position of the United States on the contested waterway.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday (June 15) the United States would support countries that believed China has violated their maritime claims in the South China Sea, but stressed doing so in multilateral and legal forums.

Scott Morrison said, "So look Australia will continue to adopt a very supportive position of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. We back that up with our own actions and our own initiatives and our own statements. But we'll say it the Australian way, we'll say it the way that it's in our interests to make those statements and we'll continue to adopt a very consistent position. It is a matter that is frequently raised when we have dialogue with our colleagues, whether it's been at several East Asia summits or other opportunities I have at bilaterals with my counterparts in the region. It is an issue of keen interest and it is one that Australia has taken a keen interest in. But we've engaged respectfully and we've engaged proactively and we've engaged practically."

China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea, within a U-shaped "nine-dash line" on its maps that is not recognised by its neighbours, several of whom have overlapping claims.

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