Freedoms of navigation and overflight (FON) are extremely important to Australia both economically and strategically. This is mainly because of Australia’s dependence on seaborne trade most of which passes through the archipelagos to our north and north-east. The archipelagic arc stretching from Indonesia, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the north, to the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji in the north-east has great strategic importance to Australia. This is the region from or through which a threat to Australia could most easily be posed. It is also the area that provides opportunities for Australia to work on common interests with the ultimate objective of a more secure and stable region.
The countries in the archipelagic arc, with the exception of Timor-Leste and New Caledonia, are all archipelagic States under the regime of the archipelagic State established under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). In a careful balancing of the interests of archipelagic States and the major maritime user States, rights of navigation and overflight through the waters of these countries are preserved through the regimes of innocent and archipelagic sea lanes (ASL) passage.