MANILA, Philippines – Three European countries that are state parties of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) expressed their collective concern over the territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
On Thursday, August 29, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany – collectively known as E3 – released a joint statement on the “tensions” among coastal states along the South China Sea that could lead to “instability” in the region.
“We are concerned about the situation in the South China Sea which could lead to insecurity and instability in the region,” said the 3 countries’ statement. (READ: [OPINION] A call for a South China Sea truth movement)
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.”
As the United Kingdom, France, and Germany called for the “universal application” of the UNCLOS, they “recalled” the July 2016 victory of the Philippines at a Hague tribunal against China over the West Philippine Sea, a part of the South China that belongs to the Philippines.
The arbitral ruling, handed down by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in July 2016, invalidated the 9-dash line China uses to claim virtually the entire South China Sea – a major victory for the Philippines and other smaller claimant states.
“As State parties of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom underline their interest in the universal application of the Convention which sets out the comprehensive legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas including in the South China Sea must be carried out and which provides the basis for national, regional and global co-operation in the maritime domain,” said E3.
“They recall in this regard the Arbitration Award rendered under UNCLOS on 12 July 2016,” added the 3 European countries.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has long been downplaying the tribunal ruling in favor of getting loans and grants from China.
But in his recent visit to Beijing, Duterte made good on his promise to raise the Hague ruling before Chinese President Xi Jinping. The Chinese leader, however, still refuses to recognize it. (READ: LIST: 6 agreements signed during Duterte-Xi August 29 meeting)