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Bishop ends Indonesia visit

AAP logoAAP 28/10/2016 Lauren Farrow

Concerns about heightening tensions in the South China Sea have spilled into talks between Indian Ocean nations in Indonesia, with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop saying countries are keen to assert a "renewed commitment" to a rules-based order.

Ms Bishop flew out of Indonesia on Friday morning after visiting Jakarta on Wednesday and attending a ministerial meeting at the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) in Bali on Thursday.

The Association, whose members states include Singapore, Thailand, the UAE, India and Iran, met to discuss maritime security issues, such as piracy, people smuggling, as well as the blue economy and the threat of terrorism.

During the talks Ms Bishop said that while territorial tensions within the South China Sea were not specifically raised "a number of countries have called for a renewed commitment to the international rules-based order".

"(This) in some instances was clearly alluding to the South China Sea," she told AAP.

Calls to respect for such order have been stepped up since the July decision in the Hague, which rejected China's claims over large swathes of the ocean.

Despite the ruling, China has continued with its expansionist activities at Scarborough Shoal and other sites in the South China Sea.

As with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's visit to Laos last month, tensions in the waters were among the topics that dominated discussions during Ms Bishop's eighth visit to the archipelago this week.

Australia has reiterated its support for Indonesia's push within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to finally secure a Code of Conduct for the hotly contested waters - something that has remained elusive for more than a decade.

Neither Australia or Indonesia are claimant states in territorial disputes but have a vested interest in freedom of navigation in the region.

Ms Bishop said the COC has been "under consideration for far too long".

"We have urged the ASEAN countries and China to conclude a Code of Conduct as soon as possible otherwise it leaves it open for others to suggest that the parties aren't serious about a Code of Conduct"

She said IORA also presented an opportunity for Australia to engage on the Indian Ocean, which has for too long been "ignored or overlooked".

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