EU blames PRC for endangering peace in South China Sea
The European Union called out the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for putting peace in jeopardy in the South China Sea and urged all parties to abide by a 2016 tribunal ruling that rejected most of the PRC’s claim to sovereignty in the sea.
The EU in late April 2021 released a new policy aimed at stepping up its influence in the Indo-Pacific region to counter the PRC’s rising power.
The Philippines that same week protested to the PRC over its failure to withdraw “threatening” boats believed to be manned by maritime militia around Whitsun Reef, which Manila calls Julian Felipe Reef. (Pictured: Philippine Coast Guard vessels patrol Chinese ships moored at Whitsun Reef in the South China Sea on April 14, 2021.)
“Tensions in the South China Sea, including the recent presence of large Chinese vessels at Whitsun Reef, endanger peace and stability in the region,” an EU spokesperson said in a statement April 24.
The EU reiterated its strong opposition to “unilateral actions that could undermine regional stability and international rules-based order.” It urged all parties to resolve disputes peacefully in accordance with international law and highlighted the 2016 international arbitration that ruled in favor of the Philippines while invalidating most of the PRC’s claims in the South China Sea.
The Chinese Mission to the EU in a statement reiterated the PRC’s claims that the reef is part of China’s Nansha Islands, or Spratly Islands, and that it was “reasonable and lawful” for Chinese fishing boats to operate there and shelter from the wind.
The statement also claimed that the PRC’s sovereignty, rights and interests in the South China Sea were formed in the “long course of history and consistent with international law” and rejected the 2016 tribunal ruling as “null and void.”
The PRC is increasingly worried that European and other countries are heeding U.S. President Joe Biden’s call for a “coordinated approach” toward China, which has so far materialized in the form of sanctions over the Chinese Communist Party’s security crackdown in Hong Kong and treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in March said that Washington “stands by its ally, the Philippines,” in the face of the PRC’s massing maritime militia at Whitsun Reef.
IMAGE CREDIT: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS