Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.jpg
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks during a press conference at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices, in Sydney, Australia, 10 July 2016.
Photograph: EPA/PAUL MILLER AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Wednesday it was vital that all countries involved in the South China Sea dispute abide by this week's international tribunal decision, and settle differences peacefully.

Speaking to reporters in Canberra, Turnbull urged China to refrain from coercive action in the region.

"There is so much at risk in the event of conflict, in the event of heightened tensions, so this is an important decision," Turnbull said.

He said the decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague provided an opportunity for the nations involved to “come together and re-engage with greater clarity on maritime rights.”

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop condemned calls from Labor Opposition defence spokesman Stephen Conroy to send warships to the region to insist on freedom of navigation for international vessels, saying this would only escalate tension.

“That is a highly irresponsible call at this point,” she said as she stood with the prime minister.

Turnbull was speaking to reporters after his first meeting with government  leaders since he won the July 2 election, declaring he was confident the government would have a two seat majority once counting was finalised.

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