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US, Australia oppose 'destab actions' in SCS

(UPDATE) THE United States and Australia opposed «destabilizing actions» in the South China Sea (SCS), including the disruption of routine Philippines maritime operations around Second Thomas (Ayungin) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) mentioned the Philippines in a joint statement which touched on various topics, including their concern on peace and stability in the region.

Biden and Albanese inaugurated a new era of US-Australia strategic cooperation during the Prime Minister's official visit in Washington, D.C., the White House said in a statement shared by the US Embassy in the Philippines.

«We are concerned about China's excessive maritime claims that are inconsistent with international law, as well as unilateral actions that may raise tensions and increase the risk of miscalculation in the region,» the two leaders said. They emphasized the «importance of all States being able to exercise rights and freedoms in a manner consistent with international law as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), including freedom of navigation and overflight.»

«We strongly oppose destabilizing actions in the South China Sea, such as unsafe encounters at sea and in the air, the militarization of disputed features, the dangerous use of coast guard vessels and maritime militia, including to interfere with routine Philippines maritime operations around Second Thomas Shoal, and efforts to disrupt other countries' offshore resource exploitation,» they said.

Biden and Albanese also said they «recognize that the 2016 South China Sea Arbitral Award is final and legally binding on the parties in that proceeding.»

«We resolve to work with partners to support regional maritime security and uphold international law,» they added.

«We emphasize the importance for all countries of promoting open channels of communication and practical measures to reduce the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation and to prevent conflict in the Indo-Pacific,» he stressed.

Days after collisions between Chinese and Philippine vessels in the South China Sea, Biden said