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South China Sea PANIC: Europe sends warning to China as tensions reach breaking point

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The Europe Big Three said China’s exercise of its alleged “historic rights” in the disputed waters does not align with international law. Britain, France and Germany, as states parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) urged that the integrity of the Convention needs to be upheld.

Jonathan Odom, Military Professor of International Law at the George C. Marshall European center for Security Studies, explained how this is the first time the Europe Big Three have issued note about the South China Sea crisis.

Speaking to VnExpress International, he said: “This is the first time they have issued a note about this subject, about the South China Sea situation.

“They had spoken together before, but this is a significant move to issue a public, two-page, detailed letter to the UN about China’s actions.”

Last year, the Europe Big Three released a statement warning about the South China Sea crisis but did not criticise China.

They instead called for peace and stability in the waters.

Mr Odom said: “This is a very significant and positive step.

“It’s important to see who these three nations are.”

The UK, France and Germany have three of the seven largest economies in the world.

France and Britain are also permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Mr Odom added: “What is also important is all three nations are parties to the Law of the Sea Convention.

“So they speak with credibility, especially given that the international tribunal for the Law of the Sea is hosted in Germany.”

The note issued by the three European countries stressed that there was no legal ground for continental nations to treat marine features as a whole entity.

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Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London, said he was “not aware of a similar statement by the three collectively on this subject before”.

He told VnExpress International: “So, it looks like this is the first time they are doing so in concert, though their position on the matter is known and consistent.

“The real significance is not that their joint statement will change China’s behaviour, but that they feel the need to issue the statement together and now.

“It reflects how much more uncomfortable the three countries feel about China’s assertiveness, particularly after the full flurry of ‘wolf-warrior diplomacy’ since the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Wolf-warrior diplomacy is a type of aggressive style of diplomacy that is reportedly adopted by Chinese diplomats.

Isaac B. Kardon, assistant professor at the US Naval War College, said the note “is a novel move by the E3 and represents the sharpest, clearest criticism of China’s South China Sea claims and activities from any of those countries individually as well as in a group”.

China responded to the note issued by the Europe Big Three over the South China Sea dispute.

Mr Odom said that China’s response came just two days after the note was released.

He said it means China “realise that this was significant for those three countries to speak, otherwise why would China have acted so quickly?”

But Mr Kardon said: “China will still likely pressure each of these countries individually not to stick their necks out for what Chinese observes characterize as an American agenda.”

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