South Korea and Australia adopted a joint statement on the South China Sea, a region that China claims as its own, underscoring that territorial disputes must be “resolved peacefully” in accordance with international law.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison jointly signed the statement after the summit talks at Parliament House in Canberra on Monday.
“As major maritime trading nations, Australia and the ROK [Republic of Korea] recognize that the stability of the Indo–Pacific depends on adherence to international law in the maritime domain, including in the South China Sea,” the statement reads.
Territorial disputes in the South China Sea are ongoing, with Beijing continuing to pursue its claims to 90 percent of the seas based on its so-called “nine-dash line.”
The Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague dismissed Beijing’s claims to much of the South China Sea in 2016 in favor of other nations, but Beijing refused to abide by the verdict and continued to increase its military presence in the region.
In the joint statement, the two leaders underscored that “disputes must be resolved peacefully and in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.”
They reaffirmed the importance of upholding freedom of navigation and overflight, and agreed to strengthen coordination to uphold these principles, “which must not be undermined in the context of increasing risks of instability in the maritime domain.”
Australia and South Korea are committed to “denuclearization and establishing permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula,” the two leaders stated, calling for the full implementation of United Nations Security Council resolutions by the international community, including North Korea.
Moon and Morrison also agreed to enhance their countries’ bilateral relationship to a “comprehensive strategic partnership” and pledged to boost cooperation in security, defense, core technology, health, and border protection.
The two allies signed a historic AU$1 billion ($716.5 million) defense agreement during the summit, which will see South Korean defense company Hanwha Corp. build 30 self-propelled howitzers and 15 armored ammunition resupply vehicles for Australia.
Morrison said in a joint press conference with Moon that South Korea has a critical role to play in quelling tensions with China in the Indo–Pacific.
“Korea has a very strong and open dialogue with China,” Morrison told press. “[The outcome of war] is one that no-one seeks, that no-one hopes transpires, whether by miscalculation or other means, therefore, Australia and Korea have important work to do as liberal democracies.”
Moon’s visit comes amid rising tensions in the Indo–Pacific as Beijing shows ambition over Taiwan and Australia signed the AUKUS pact with the United States and the United Kingdom, which will see Australia securing nuclear-powered submarines.
Epoch Times Sydney staff contributed to this report.