South China Sea: EU powers admit serious ‘concern’ over critical tensions in the region


THE UK, France and Germany expressed their collective concern over the territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
The European countries, known as the E3, released a joint statement on the “tensions” among coastal states along the South China Sea that could lead to “instability” in the region. All three are state parties of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The statement read: “We are concerned about the situation in the South China Sea which could lead to insecurity and tension in the region.”

E3 urged all claimant states in the South China Sea to “take steps and measures that reduce tensions and contribute to maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, and safety in the region”.

The UK, France and Germany called for a “universal application” of the UNCLOS.

During their statement, they referred to the Philippines’ 2016 victory in a tribunal against China over the West Philippine Sea, part of the South China Sea which belongs to the Philippines.

The ruling at the Hague tribunal invalidated the 9-dash line China used to claim almost all of the South China Sea.

This was a major victory for the Philippines and other smaller claimant states.

China rejected the ruling and instead ramped up its militarisation efforts in the vital waterways.

Chinese President Xi Jinping then agreed to continue talks on a code of conduct in the South China Sea that would help resolve conflicts in the disputed waters.

In 2017, China and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed to start talks on a sea code.

It is seen to replace the non-binding 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

E3 said in their statement all three countries underline their interest in the application of the UNCLOS which sets out a comprehensive legal framework.

The framework includes all activities in the oceans and seas, including the South China Sea, must provide the basis for national, regional and global co-operation in the maritime domain.

The E3 welcomed the ongoing negotiations between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China to come up with a code of conduct in the South China Sea.

Tensions have mounted between Washington and Beijing over the US’ claims of China militarising the southern sea through building military installations on artificial islands and reefs in disputed waters.

Beijing urged Washington to end its “provocative” naval operations in the hotly disputed territory.

China added US President Donald Trump was violating China’s sovereignty in allowing vessels within proximity of the area.

Bloomberg reported the People’s Liberation Army issued a statement after closely watching the USS Wayne E. Meyer guided-missile destroyer sail in the region, sparking anger from China.

Senior Colonel Li Huamin, a spokesman for the southern command, said: “Facts have proven that the so-called ‘freedom of navigation’ of the United States is essentially a hegemony that ignores the rules of international law.

“It seriously undermines China’s sovereignty and security interests, and seriously undermines the stability of the South China Sea region.”