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South China Sea

Volume 682: debated on Tuesday 13 October 2020

What recent assessment he has made of the effect on regional security of China’s actions in the South China sea. (907446)

On 3 September, I reiterated our concern about reports of militarisation, coercion and intimidation in the South China sea, and I called on all parties to refrain from activity likely to raise tensions. Given the importance we attach to the UN convention on the law of the sea, I also put our comprehensive legal position on the SCS on public record for the first time.

China’s brazen human rights abuses and its increasingly assertive behaviour internationally are both deeply disturbing issues. In the light of this behaviour, what consideration has the Department given to the integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy to safeguard British friends and interests in south-east Asia?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this. I remind him that, on 6 October, 39 countries joined in a statement at the UN Third Committee expressing deep concern at the human rights situation in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet. This growing caucus willing to speak out reflects the UK’s diplomatic leadership. The tilt to the Indo-Pacific is a key ambition for our integrated review. It will outline the UK’s intention to become a long-term partner to south Asian and Asia-Pacific countries. We are already working to develop closer partnerships with the region through our bid to achieve Association of Southeast Asian Nations dialogue partnership status. The Foreign Secretary visited Hanoi recently, and that was high on our agenda. We are also keen to pursue our accession to the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership.