Turnbull warns Asian leaders of 'coercive China'

Mr Turnbull gave a blunt keynote address to the Shangri-La dialogue in Singapore, implying that China was not playing by the rules in the South China Sea.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says that he expects the Trump Administration will realize continued engagement in the Indo-Pacific region is in the interest of the US, during a speech at an annual regional security summit in Singapore.

Cyber security is a vital priority on the national security agenda of both countries, said Mr Turnbull.

"We should be under no illusions", he told delegates.

While terrorism is a key item on the agenda, the region will also be listening closely to Mr Turnbull's address as it grapples with the "fickle nature" of American foreign policy and whether they can arely on the USA to engage in ongoing security challenges, Australian National University defence and strategic expert John Blaxland told AAP this week.

The talk comes after President Donald Trump's announcement that the United States will be pulling out of the Paris climate agreement recently, alongside a similar decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in January.

Importantly, US Defence Secretary James Mattis will address the meeting on Saturday with a speech that will be closely watched for indications of the new administration's Asia policy.

"We have a good friend and partner in Beijing and a steadfast friend and ally in Washington", Turnbull said, rejecting the view that Australia had to choose sides.

Turnbull's relationship with Trump got off to a bad start in January, after Trump abruptly ended a phone call with the prime minister that he described as "the worst" among the five world leaders he spoke to that day.

Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) chief David Koh, who signed the agreement with Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Ambassador for Cyber Affairs, Dr Tobias Feakin, said the MOU demonstrates both nation's commitment to work together to build a secure and resilient cyberspace.

"If we are to maintain the dynamism of the region, then we must preserve the rules-based structure that has enabled it thus far", Turnbull sad. China, whose actions have also anxious Southeast Asian nations with competing claims such as Vietnam and the Philippines, has ignored an worldwide arbitration court ruling rejecting its claims to more than 80% of the waters.

Beijing has pitted itself against its smaller neighbors in claiming disputed islands, coral reefs and lagoons in the South China Sea.

"Just as modern China was founded in 1949 on an assertion of national sovereignty, so will 21st century China best succeed by respecting the sovereignty of others and in so doing build a reservoir of trust and cooperation with its neighbours", he added.

Mr Lee expressed deep appreciation for Australia's continued support for the Singapore Armed Forces' training needs, which he said will benefit both defence forces and the local towns' economies. "He was trying to be diplomatic towards the Chinese, but he should have been more direct".

  • Zachary Reyes