Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks in the Australian Parliament
IN PHOTO: Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks in the Australian Parliament located in the Australian capital city of Canberra February 23, 2015. REUTERS/David Gray

Australia has maintained it will not take sides in the dispute over some parts of South China Sea. Prime Minister Tony Abbott has declared his country will remain neutral on the issue.

“China is a very good friend of Australia and it’s a friendship which is getting stronger all the time,” said Mr Abbott when he answered questions about the South China Sea dispute. He added that Australia’s position has always been clear.

However, the Australian prime minister said Australia deplores any unilateral alteration of the status quo. Mr Abbott said disputers should be “settled peacefully” in compliance with international law. He reiterated that Australia will do what it can to uphold the freedom of navigation on the sea and air.

An influential federal government backbencher has described China’s increased military activity in the South China Sea as “dangerous” and “destabilising.” Peter Hendy said in a speech to Parliament that China cannot be allowed to impose a solution in the disputed trade route.

The Liberal MP said attempts by any country to establish a military presence with the intention of defending contested territory or sovereignty claims in the South China Sea are regarded as dangerous. Henry told parliament that the purpose of the artificial islands may not be entirely clear but it was not “fanciful” to think of them as China’s aircraft carriers, reports ABC.

U.S. officials said China has added about 800 hectares to five outposts in the disputed Spratly Islands including more than 600 hectares since the start of the year. Aside from Henry, a former prime minister of Australia, Bob Hawke, has also weighed in on the South China Sea dispute.

The Australian reports that Hawke has urged the U.S. and China to enter into a dialogue as Beijing signals a tougher stance. Hawke called for diplomacy at the Australia-China Relations Institute event at the University of Technology Sydney.

Hawke said he hoped China would ask the U.S. to a dialogue and bring about a diplomatic solution to the issue. He added that it is the region’s “best hope.”

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