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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said Australia will uphold the rule of law in the contended maritime region. His comments follow an angry response from Beijing to the new AUKUS security treaty.
China is an important trading partner for Australia, but diplomatic relations have grown tense recently
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected Chinese complaints about its membership in a defensive alliance with the US and UK on Friday, and said Australia was committed to upholding the rule of law during a series of interviews on local radio.
Morrison announced the so-called AUKUS partnership on Wednesday alongside US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. It will see the three countries share technology as part of their Indo-Pacific strategy. China has called the move "extremely irresponsible."
Beijing also questioned the safety of sharing nuclear-driven submarine technology with Australia. Morrison responded by pointing out China's "very substantive program of nuclear submarine building."
The Australian prime minister said during a series of interviews that the government was responding to a shift in the regional dynamics.
"We are interested in ensuring that international waters are always international waters and international skies are international skies and that the rule of law applies equally in all of these places," he told Channel Seven television.
He emphasized the importance of avoiding maritime "no-go zones."
"That's very important whether it is for trade, whether it is for things like undersea cables, for planes and where they can fly," Morrison said. "I mean that is the order that we need to preserve. That is what peace and stability provide for and that is what we are seeking to achieve."
Relations between China and Australia have soured after Canberra blocked Chinese investment from several sensitive areas and Beijing imposed economic sanctions on a variety of Australian exports.
Morrison also shrugged off the moment when Biden appeared to forget his name, referring to him instead as "that fellow Down Under" and "pal."
"Oh, I didn't pay much attention to it. I mean, these things happen. They happen frequently,'' Morrison told Nine Network.
"From time to time, you know, I've been known to let the odd name slip from my memory, that's pretty normal in our line of work, I've got to be honest,'' he added.
ab/sms (AP, AFP)