The European Union (EU) has raised concern over the tension in the South China Sea and urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and all concerned parties to craft a legally binding Code of Conduct in the disputed waters.
The European External Action Service (EEAS) of the EU made the statement as the Philippines continued to protest the presence of Chinese vessels in areas under the latter’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
In a statement, the EEAS raised its concern over the tension in the disputed waters and expressed its opposition to any action that will endanger the peace and stability in the region.
“Tensions in the South China Sea, including the recent presence of large Chinese vessels at Whitsun Reef, endanger peace and stability in the region,” the EU’s statement read.
“The EU reiterates its strong opposition to any unilateral actions that could undermine regional stability and the international rules-based order,” it added.
The group said the EU is committed to secure, free, and open maritime supply routes in the Indo-Pacific, in full compliance with international law, in particular the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), in the interest of all.
“We urge all parties to resolve disputes through peaceful means in accordance with international law, in particular UNCLOS, including its dispute settlement mechanisms,” the powerful body said.
“The EU recalls in this regard the Arbitration Award rendered under UNCLOS on 12 July 2016,” it added.
It likewise expressed support for the crafting of a legally binding Code of Conduct.
“The EU supports the ASEAN-led process towards an effective, substantive, and legally binding Code of Conduct, which should not prejudice the interests of third parties,” it said.
“The EU urges all parties to pursue sincere efforts towards its finalization,” it added.
After weeks of staying mum about the issue, President Duterte finally broke his silence earlier this week, saying the reality was China was in “possession” of the area and that nothing will happen if he goes to the disputed waters.
He, however, said that he will not allow China to drill oil in the area.