Military officials from Australia and China exchanged “robust,” “direct and blunt” remarks over territorial claims in the South China Sea, according to Fairfax media.
The discussion took place between Australia’s defense brass and General Fang Fenghui, chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
Talks got particularly heated while the two parties discussed China’s island-building spree. Recently, China has raised regional tension by building artificial islands across the area including one with an air strip. China has not slowed down the process and it has repeatedly said it will refuse third-party resolutions even as it fights a legal case over the issue filed by the Philippines.
Beijing repeatedly has warned Australia and the United States not to send its navies out to conduct “freedom of navigation” drills in order to challenge its claim to nearly all of the South China Sea, a lucrative waterway that sees $5 trillion worth of ship-borne goods pass through each year.
Legal experts believe Manila has a strong chance of winning the case based on the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal’s rejection of China’s arguments in the hearing, which wrapped up on Monday. The court in The Hague is now entering its deliberations and will make a ruling by 2016.
Even though it is unlikely for a ruling on behalf of the Philippines to be enforced, the decision could put China at a bad stance on the world stage. The court’s inevitable decision will mark the first time an international court makes a ruling on the South China Sea issue..