The commander of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy said Thursday that Australia’s recent actions in the South China Sea have jeopardized regional stability, according to the Chinese state-run People’s Daily.
“The general situation in the South China Sea is positive, but the Australian navy’s recent actions in the region are against the consensus reached by the leaders of the two nations and hinder bilateral cooperation,” Commander Shen Jinlong was quoted as saying by China’s Ministry of National Defense on Thursday.
The remarks came during Australian Vice Admiral Tim Barrett’s visit to Beijing, and amid escalating tensions between the two countries. An Australian politician resigned just this week, amid controversy surrounding links to Chinese donors, and the revelation of recordings shedding light on his pro-China position on South China Sea territorial disputes.
There is also speculation that the diplomatic spat between China and Australia may affect a by-election in Sydney this Saturday.
Shen’s comments were in response to the Australian Navy’s decision to follow through on long-held plans for naval exercises in the region, including the deployment of six vessels carrying more than 1,000 personnel in September.
“The Chinese side is very concerned why Australia would join 10 other countries to choose the South China Sea to undertake this drill, and the intention behind it,” an article from the Global times said earlier of response to the exercises.