MANILA - The United Kingdom, France and Germany have expressed concern over the current situation in the South China Sea.
In a joint statement released August 29, the E3 countries, which are all parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), said they are "concerned" about the situation in the area, which "could lead to insecurity and instability in the region."
"We call on all coastal States of the South China Sea to take steps and measures that reduce tensions and contribute to maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability and safety in the region, including as regards the rights of coastal States in their waters and the freedom and rights of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea," they said in the statement.
The E3 also called on the "universal application" of the convention, "which sets out the comprehensive legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas including in the South China Sea must be carried out and which provides the basis for national, regional and global co-operation in the maritime domain."
The three countries, likewise, welcomed the ongoing negotiations between member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China to come up with a code of conduct in the South China Sea.
The Philippines in 2016 won a case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which invalidated China’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea.
However, China didn't recognize the ruling and instead ramped up its militarization efforts in the vital waterway.
Despite rejecting the Philippines' arbitral win, Chinese President Xi Jinping has agreed to continue talks on a code of conduct in the South China Sea that would help resolve conflicts in the disputed waters.
In 2017, China and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed to start talks on a sea code, seen to replace the non-binding 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.