Australia will seek clarification from China over how it plans to use the reclaimed islands in the disputed South China Sea, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Tuesday. The country will also ask China, which claims most of the South China Sea, if Beijing intends to grant access to other countries.
Bishop, who met with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo Tuesday, will fly to Beijing later in the day for talks with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi and other Chinese officials. The visit comes as Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government continues to weigh in on whether to join the United States in so-called freedom of navigation patrols through the disputed South China Sea, aimed at undercutting Beijing's excessive maritime claims.
"In the past [Chinese] Foreign Minister Wang Yi has said they will be public goods, so I am seeking more detail as to how other nations could access these public goods," Bishop said of the islands, according to Reuters. "Depending upon the answer he gives, we will look at the situation."
Bishop did not say whether Australia plans to seek access to the islands in the South China Sea, which are also claimed by Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan.
Since last October, U.S. warships have sailed close to China's claimed islands as part of so-called freedom of navigation operations that Beijing has warned as provocative.
Last December, Chinese authorities complained that a U.S. B-52 bomber flew close to one of Beijing's artificial islands. This year, China accused Washington of seeking maritime hegemony after a U.S. Navy destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of a disputed island in the South China Sea in late January.