15:11 GMT +327 May 2018
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    In this Thursday, April 19, 2018, photo, Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Success prepares to dock at Saigon port in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

    Holding No Water: Beijing Denies Challenging Australia in S China Sea

    © AP Photo / Van Khoa/Thanh Nien News
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    The Australian Defense Department has declined to comment on the "operational details" of its three warships, which recently traveled to Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City via the disputed areas in the South China Sea.

    China's Defense Ministry said in a statement on Friday that Australian media reports that Chinese naval vessels had recently challenged Australian warships in the South China Sea "did not accord with the facts."

    "The Chinese ships used professional language to communicate with the Australians, and their operations were lawful, in compliance [with international norms], professional and safe," the ministry said, adding that the "encounter" took place last Sunday.

    READ MORE: Beijing 'Sending a Message to Anybody Meddling in South China Sea' – Scholar

    Speaking at a news briefing in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, for her part, said that there will be "no problem whatsoever" for Australia if it is "referring to freedom of navigation in accordance with international laws."

    "But if Australia has other motives, we hope it can see the trend in the South China Sea is stable and improving, and work together with China and other neighboring countries for the peace and stability of the region," Hua underscored.

    Confirming that its three warships recently traveled to Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City, the Australian Defense Department has refused to comment on "operational details related to the ships transiting the South China Sea."

    Australia's ABC news agency in turn cited a source as saying that the exchanges between the two sides' naval vessels were polite yet "robust."

    READ MORE: US Navy: China Militarizing South China Sea With 7 New Bases

    The Australian Defense Department was earlier quoted by Reuters as saying that "as they have done for many decades, Australian vessels and aircraft will continue to exercise rights under international law to freedom of navigation and overflight, including in the South China Sea."

    In November 2017, Australia published its first detailed policy paper on national interests and diplomacy since 2003. In the document, Canberra specifically stressed that it was "particularly concerned by the unprecedented pace and scale of China's activities" in the South China Sea.

    READ MORE: China Slams US Navy’s ‘Recklessness’ in Disputed South China Sea Territories

    Beijing described the document as "irresponsible", with China's foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang saying that "Australia is not directly involved in the South China Sea issue."

    "So we would like to advise Australia to abide by its commitment and stop making irresponsible remarks on the South China Sea issue," Lu said.

    A number of countries in the region including the Philippines and China are participating in a territorial dispute in the South China Sea, where ships bearing commodities worth of trillions of dollars pass.

    Apart from Beijing and Manila, lodging territorial claims over the sea are Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand, Brunei, Malaysia, Cambodia and Singapore.

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    encounter, warships, navigation, freedom, laws, South China Sea, Australia, China
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