EU Ambassador to ASEAN: Necessity for Freedom of navigation at East Sea global
|US Secretary of State accuses China of pushing territorial ambitions during pandemic|
|Australian Foreign Minister condemns China's actions in East Sea|
|Vietnam protests against China's sovereign claims over Paracel and Spratly Islands|
|China's Xinhua News Agency reports the notice from the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs, announcing the establishment of the so-called Xisha district at Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) archipelago, and Nansha district at Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago, in the so-called Sansha city.|
The EU is committed to the legal order for the seas and oceans based upon international law, maritime security and cooperation, as well as the freedom of navigation and overflight, in the interest of all states, Driesmans told Vietnam News Agency on April 26.
Driesmans said the EU is concerned about unilateral actions during the past weeks in the East Sea that have resulted in mounting tensions and a deterioration of the maritime security environment, including temporary or permanent deployment of military forces or equipment on disputed maritime features, harassment or intimidation of fishing and other vessels, and attempts to unilaterally impose new administrative boundaries.
“Such actions represent a serious threat to the peaceful economic development of the region and undermine international cooperation and trust, which are crucial for effectively mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.”
“What happens in this region matters to all of us,” he continued, noting that an estimated one-third of global shipping passes through the East Sea; so freedom of navigation is a global necessity.
Asian partners are increasingly looking to the EU to be present and engaged on security matters, and the bloc is intent on delivering on that objective through active engagement through multilateral mechanisms such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and concrete steps with individual countries in the region such as the recent agreement on Vietnam's participation in European military and civilian missions, he said.
The ambassador went on to say that the EU is cooperating “more closely than ever” with ASEAN and will continue supporting regional ASEAN-led processes to promote a rules-based regional and international order, to consolidate multilateral cooperation, and to cooperate closely with third parties.
“In this regard, we are looking forward to a conclusion, in a transparent manner, of the talks between ASEAN and China on an effective, substantive and legally binding Code of Conduct,” the diplomat said.
He also emphasised that it is crucial for all parties in the region to exercise self-restraint and abstain from unilateral actions, take concrete steps towards reverting to the status quo ante, refrain from militarising the region and resolve disputes through peaceful means in accordance with international law, notably the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The EU encourages further engagement in confidence building measures, building trust and security in the region, he said.
Driesmans suggested concerned parties could seek third party assistance in the form of mediation or arbitration to facilitate the settlement of their respective claims.
The EU has its own experience in dealing with overlapping maritime territorial claims, so it would be happy to put that experience at the disposal of its Asian partners, he said.
According to a notice jointly released by China’s Natural Resources Ministry and Civil Affairs Ministry on April 19, it has given names to features in Paracel and Spratly Islands. These include 25 islands, shoals and reefs and 55 oceanic mountains and ridges.
It was the latest move of China to assert its territorial claims in the East Sea (internationally referred to as the South China Sea).
The statement came a day after China said it had set up two administrative districts under the so-called Sansha city, Hainan province – which it named Xisha and Nansha– to govern the Paracel and Spratly islands.
More specifically, the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs said that its State Council has approved the formation of “Xisha District” on Woody Island on the Paracels and “Nansha District” on the Fiery Cross Reef of the Spratlys.
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