Canberra: Australia has not been asked to join the US in sailing warships near Chinese islands in the South China Sea and Australia has no plan to go beyond what it is doing there now, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on Thursday.
“We have not been asked to join the US and we have no plans to do other than what we already do,” Bishop was quoted by Xinhua as saying.
She also confirmed reports that two Australian Royal Navy destroyers were now in China for a joint live fire exercise.
“Indeed, we have joint exercises with the US Navy, we have joint exercises with the Chinese Navy – so we will continue to operate in that region,” Bishop said.
The Australian newspaper reported on Thursday that two Australian Anzac-class frigates are in China and will conduct a live-firing exercise with China’s People’s Liberation Army navy.
Other cabinet members of Australia had been delivering similar remarks, clarifying Australia’s stance on the issue.
Defence Minister Malise Payne said in a statement that “Australia is not involved in the current United States activity in the South China Sea”.
Earlier this week, a US navy warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of Chinese islands in the South China Sea – a gesture China said constituted a grave challenge to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.