Last week, coastguard vessels of the People’s Republic of China blocked two Philippine supply boats on their way to Second Thomas Shoal, 105 nautical miles west of the province of Palawan (Philippines) in the South China Sea, and used water cannons against them. This episode follows other unilateral actions by vessels of the People’s Republic of China in the South China Sea over the past months.
The European Union reiterates its strong opposition to any unilateral actions that endanger peace, security and stability in the region and the international rules-based order. Furthermore, the European Union emphasises the importance for all parties to respect freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.
We urge all parties to resolve disputes through peaceful means in accordance with international law, in particular the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), including its dispute settlement mechanisms. In this context, the European Union recalls the Arbitration Award rendered under UNCLOS on 12 July 2016, which found that Second Thomas Shoal lies within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
The European Union supports the ASEAN-led process towards a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, which should be effective, substantive and legally binding, and not prejudice the interests of third parties.