Australia considering joint South China Sea patrols with Indonesia

Australia is considering an Indonesian invitation for joint maritime patrols in the South China Sea, Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Tuesday.

According to Bishop, the option was discussed during last week’s meeting between her, Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne and Indonesian officials including Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu in Jakarta.

“We have agreed to explore options to increase maritime cooperation and of course that would include coordinated activities in the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea,” Bishop told ABC Radio.

Tensions between Indonesia and China heightened after the arbitration court in Hague issued the South China Sea ruling which said China’s claims to disputed territories in the South China Sea had no legal footing.

Vessels from Indonesia and China were involved in a number of incidents this year in waters where China and Indonesia have overlapping claims for maritime rights and interests.

China also warned Australia to act “cautiously” regarding the South China Sea issue after Australia joined a statement with the US and Japan in July which called for China to abide by the ruling.

U.S. Navy vessel have already carried out a number of patrols in the region under the ‘freedom of navigation’ operation. Guided missile destroyers sailed close to China-claimed islands and reefs three times before and one time after the court ruling.