Australia open to conducting joint exercises with indonesia in south china sea

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FOREIGN Minister Julie Bishop has confirmed the Australian government is open to conducting joint patrols with Indonesia in the South China Sea.

She told ABC Radio today that such an operation would be in line with international law and the countrys interests.

The Defence Minister Ryacudu talked about increasing our maritime exercises and both Senator Payne and I said we would look into that, she said.

We have agreed to explore options to increase maritime co-operation and of course that would include co-ordinated activities in the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea.

This is all consistent with our policy of exercising our right of freedom of navigation.

Last week, Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu suggested that Indonesia and Australia conduct joint military patrols in the South China Sea.

According to The Jakarta Post, Mr Ryamizard met with Australias Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defence Minister Marise Payne on Thursday last week to make the proposal.

We have already suggested to Australia the possibility of conducting joint patrols in the eastern part of the South China Sea. We are sure that we will soon create a plan on how to realise it. They have more or less agreed, he told reporters on Friday.

He said he believed the joint patrols would help bring peace to the disputed region.

While its not a claimant state to the disputed region, Indonesia sides with Australia in opposing territorial claims that are not in accordance with international law.

If the plan does go ahead, Australia may come under further scrutiny from China, which claims almost the entirety of the mineral-rich region.

Just last month, the rising superpower urged Australia to speak and act cautiously on the issue.

Earlier this year, one of the countrys state newspapers The Global Times issued a more direct threat to Australia, accusing the nation of trying to please the US and intending to suppress China.

It warned that if Australia physically involves itself in the South China Sea waters, our country will be an ideal target for China to warn and strike.

But Ms Bishop said joint patrols with Indonesia would be nothing out of the ordinary.

This is a regular part of what our navy does, she said. This is part of our engagement in the region and this is in accordance with Australias right of freedom of navigation including in the South China Sea.

During a visit to Bali last week, Ms Bishop publicly declared her support for Indonesias push for a code of conduct for the region.

We have urged the ASEAN (the Association of South-East Asian Nations) countries and China to conclude a code of conduct as soon as possible, otherwise it leaves it open for others to suggest that the parties arent serious about a code.

Defence ministry spokesman Djundan Eko Bintoro says at this stage, it was simply a proposal and theres no agreement yet.

In July, an international tribunal in The Hague ruled that Chinas claim to the South China Sea was unfounded.

While Australia vowed to continue exercising the right of freedom of navigation in the disputed area, China rejected the ruling.

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