Australia’s new leader criticized China’s building of artificial islands in the South China Sea as his government sought to reassure Washington about his country’s tight alliance with the United States, Bloomberg reported.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in his first foreign policy statement since ousting his predecessor, Tony Abbott, last week, said China’s construction of artificial islands around reefs in the disputed Spratly Islands was counterproductive because it raised concerns in Asia over Beijing’s territorial intentions.
“The pushing the envelope in the South China Sea has had … exactly the reverse consequence of what China would seek to achieve,” Turnbull told Australian television Monday night.
He said the actions have pushed smaller Asian countries closer to the US because of security concerns.
A Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said Beijing was working to resolve disputes over the South China Sea through “negotiation and consultation” with other countries and said Beijing hoped Australia would “stick to its commitment of not taking sides on issues concerning sovereign disputes”.
In the past, Chinese officials have rejected criticism of the land reclamation work on the grounds that China has sovereign rights in the area.
Turnbull spoke days before the White House is expected to press Chinese President Xi Jinping over the issue during his visit to Washington.
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