The ambassadors of China and Australia in New Delhi were involved in a verbal spat over Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea.

It all started after Australian High Commissioner Barry O’Farrell yesterday stated that his country was deeply concerned by China’s actions in the disputed sea and also called for restraint along the LAC between India and China. He said Australia remained deeply concerned by actions in the South China Sea that were destabilising and could provoke escalation.

O’Farrell noted that on 23 July, Australia lodged a note with the UN Secretary General refuting China’s unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea. Australia, he said, rejected China’s claim to historic rights and internal waters, its assertion of certain maritime zones, and its contention that there was wide international recognition of its South China Sea sovereignty claims.

Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Weidong this morning took to twitter to slam his Australian counterpart over his remarks. “Noted remarks by Australian HC to India on South China Sea disregarding facts. China’s territorial sovereignty, and maritime rights and interests are in conformity with international law, including UNCLOS (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea). It’s clear who safeguard peace and stability and who destabilise and provoke escalation in the region,” he said.

The Australian envoy was quick to respond, rebutting the Chinese ambassador’s charge and asking Beijing to refrain from actions that unilaterally alter the status quo.

“Thank you, Chinese Ambassador to India. I would hope then you follow the 2016 South China Sea Arbitral Award which is final and binding under international law, and also generally refrain from actions that unilaterally alter the status quo,” the Australian envoy said.