He noted that the overall situation in the South China Sea "has become more stable than in past years".
The two sides pursued regular consultations even as Beijing continued to ignore an global tribunal's July 2016 ruling that invalidated its claim over almost all of South China Sea, acting on a Philippine case initiated under the Aquino administration.
At the conclusion of his first visit to Australia, Mr Williamson said Britain could learn from this country's experience in handling Beijing's attempts to buy influence and to interfere in the political process.
China has repeatedly accused countries outside the region - generally a reference to the and - of trying to provoke trouble in the South China Sea, while China and its neighbors are trying to resolve the matter through diplomacy.
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The Defence Secretary said the anti-submarine frigate would be sent to "assert our values" and worldwide right to navigate the waters.
China has built artificial islands in the disputed territory and have placed military facilities in the sea.
Britain will be leaving the European Union next year and has looked to China as one of the countries where it wants to sign a free trade deal.
He said: "I think we've always got to be vigilant to any form of malign intent".
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Second, the challenges that lie ahead for any kind of bilateral advance on the South China Sea should not be underestimated. In July 2016, the Philippines won an arbitration case at a court in The Hague that voided China's claim, but Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's two-week old administration at that time departed from his predecessor's foreign policy and set aside the legal victory in order to fix diplomatic and economic ties with China.
In a recent interview with news.com.au, Dr Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst in Defence Strategy and Capability at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, similarly warned that China was "not benevolent". This is a great opportunity for the United Kingdom and Australia to do more, to exercise leadership'.
This declaration was issued by both parties during the Second Meeting of the Philippines-China Bilateral Consultation Mechanism (BCM) on the South China Sea hosted by Manila Tuesday.
Protesters have rallied outside the Chinese consulate in the Philippines capital, Manila, against China's militarisation of the disputed islands in the South China Sea.
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Likewise in 2016, the Communist Party's mouthpiece The Global Times launched a scathing attack on the Australian government, following its decision to support an worldwide tribunal over the South China Sea.