The European Union (EU), Canada and New Zealand have joined the calls for the preservation of a rules-based order in the South China Sea, obviously referring to the presence of Chinese vessels at the Julian Felipe Reef that is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
In response, the Chinese Embassy on Manila called their statements “irresponsible comments.”
EU Ambassador to Manila Luc Veron on Thursday said the bloc “stands by rules-based order” as he stressed the need for all parties to adhere to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
He also cited the statement made by High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell at a recent EU-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) ministerial meeting.
“We cannot allow countries to unilaterally undermine international law and maritime security in the South China Sea, thereby representing a serious threat to the peaceful development of the region,” Borrell said.
Canada, for its part, said it expressed opposition to “recent Chinese actions” in the contested waterway.
“Canada opposes recent Chinese actions in the South China Sea, including off the coast of the Philippines, that escalate tensions and undermine regional stability and the rules-based international order,” Ambassador Peter MacArthur tweeted Thursday.
New Zealand, meanwhile, urged parties to exercise “self-restraint, resolution of disputes by peaceful means, and undertaking cooperative activities to build trust and confidence” while it echoed calls for UNCLOS adherence.
The New Zealand statement was delivered during the 28th New Zealand-Asean Dialogue last March 23, where Manila reiterated its objection over the “continued provocative presence” of Chinese fishing vessels at the Julian Felipe Reef.
Responding to the comments of Western nations, the Chinese Embassy in Manila called their comments “irresponsible.”
“Neither these diplomats understand the basic facts, nor do they have the ability to think and judge independently. But they came out with irresponsible comments, using the same scripts,” the embassy said.
“If the so-called ‘facts’ are false from the beginning, you couldn’t be more wrong to repeat the mistakes. Understand and respect the fact before you make any comments,” it added.
Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States earlier expressed concern over actions that may raise tensions in the South China Sea.
The Philippine Coast Guard initially reported that around 220 Chinese fishing vessels, were sighted moored in line formation at the Julian Felipe Reef last March 7. The Armed Forces of the Philippines confirmed on March 22 that around 183 Chinese vessels linger in the same area.
The reef is a large boomerang-shaped, shallow coral reef at the northeast of Pagkakaisa Banks and Reefs (Union Reefs) located approximately 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan.