CANBERRA, Australia, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Leaders in Australia and Indonesia have agreed to explore joint military patrols of the South China Sea as tensions rise because of China's actions in the waterway.
Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop confirmed Monday the two countries are looking into increasing cooperation on patrols and considering military exercises together to push back against China's claims of the South China Sea.
As China has claimed rights to the waterway, which is a significant fishing area and important trade path in the region, Russia has engaged in military exercises with China and the Philippines has backed out of patrols with the United States there.
The United States, meanwhile, has increased patrols of the South China Sea and asked allies there to more strongly thwart Chinese claims to the waterway. Among nations that have most strongly done so are Indonesia, which recently fired warning shots at a Chinese fishing boat that violated what it considers its territory there.
"This is all consistent with our policy of exercising our right of freedom of navigation," Bishop said. "And that is in accordance with international law and our support for peace, stability and security in the region."
Indonesian defense minister Ryamizad Ryacudu brought up the idea of working together during a meeting with Bishop and Australian defense minister Marise Payne ahead of the president of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, speaking before the Australian parliament.
The move to work together would satisfy Indonesians who want to see the country help others defend the South China Sea more strongly, as well as the United States, which has been pushing Australia to do the same.