WEST PHILIPPINE SEA

CHINA TO EU: Keep off West Philippine Sea issue

By ROGER N. BALANZA

“The South China Sea should not become a tool for certain countries to contain and suppress China, still less a wrestling ground for major-power rivalry. China urges the EU side to respect the efforts of countries in the region in properly addressing differences and maintaining stability in the South China Sea, and stop sowing discord.”

The Chinese Mission to the European Union (EU) issued this statement to reject the claim of the EU that China is endangering the peace and stability in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) due to the presence of its maritime vessels.

The ships, according to the Chinese Mission in its statement on Sunday, were merely taking shelter from bad weather adding that t he reef which they called Niu’e Jiao is part of China’s Nansha Islands and the waters around the area have been traditional fishing grounds for Chinese fishermen for many years.

The Chinese mission noted that “in recent years, countries in the region and beyond have seen clearly that the destabilizing factors and security risks in the South China Sea mainly come from outside the region,” it said in a statement.

The EU on Saturday opposed any unilateral actions in the South China Sea (SCS) as it cites the recent swarming of Chinese vessels at the Julian Felipe Reef, an area located within the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The EU”s European External Action Service (EEAS) voiced the concern on the ongoing tension between the Philippines and China after around 200 Chinese ships were first spotted over Julian Felipe Reef on 7 March.

EU said tensions in the South China Sea, including the recent presence of large Chinese vessels at Julian Felipe Reef, also called the Whitsun Reef, “endanger peace and stability in the region.”

“The EU reiterates its strong opposition to any unilateral actions that could undermine regional stability and the international rules-based order. We urge all parties to resolve disputes through peaceful means in accordance with international law, in particular UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), including its dispute settlement mechanisms,” it said in a statement.

It also renewed its recognition of the landmark 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration award, which invalidated Beijing’s expansive claim called the nine-dash line on the South China Sea.

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