After Australia was taken to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Attorney General George Brandis issued a joint declaration on Aug. 29. They denied all spying allegations and said that East Timor should respect the existing treaties to divide underseas resources.
However, just one month ago, China declared its intention to oppose and reject any claim or action based on PCA decisions, and the U.S, Japan and Australia emphatically urged China to obey the "valid arbitration" on the South China Sea. Bishop even said that China's international reputation and ambitions of becoming a leading power would be harmed if its leadership ignored the results of the arbitration.
The maritime delimitation between Australia and East Timor has existed for decades. In 1972, Australia and Indonesia delimited the maritime border in the Timor Sea. However, since East Timor was a Portuguese colony, the agreement required but failed to obtain Portugal's approval. After declaring independence in 2002, East Timor rejected the bilateral agreements made by Australia and Indonesia in 1989 and 1997.
Before East Timor declared independence, Australia issued an exclusive declaration refusing to accept settlement procedures on disputes of maritime delimitation. This refusal made reference to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which Australia denounced in the same year. On the day of East Timor's independence, Australia and East Timor signed the Timor Sea Treaty, establishing a joint petroleum development area. In 2006, under pressure from all sides, Australia and Timor-Leste signed a new treaty equally dividing underseas resources.
East Timor now holds that, according to the medium line principle, it can rightfully claim most parts of the oil-gas zone. The country, therefore, attempted to resolve the dispute through judicial procedure. So far, however, Australia has thwarted those attempts.