TAIPEI, Taiwan — EU members will step up their advocacy of open access to the disputed South China Sea, a major world trade route, despite almost all Chinese claims, while discussing the issue with Southeast Asian nations, analysts say. believes of.
Experts say the 27 EU members, such as France and Germany, hope that all countries can comply with UN maritime rules in the South China Sea to ensure stability with other world waterways and in goods with Asia. To protect the rapidly growing maritime trade.
China claims 90% of the 3.5 million square kilometers of ocean, which includes the UN-determined Exclusive Economic Zones of the four Southeast Asian states. Chinese officials point to dynastic maritime documents to support their claim.
EU leaders met in early August with the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations to discuss the South China Sea, and the two sides are scheduled to convene again this quarter. The European Union has met with the Southeast Asian Association since 1977, as part of ASEAN’s series of dialogues with other major countries and regions.
ASEAN is the EU’s third largest trading partner outside Europe, after China and the United States, with over $221 billion in goods trade last year.
About 60% of maritime trade by volume passes through Asia and about a third through the South China Sea, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Estimates. The sea is a connector between East Asia and the Indian Ocean, keeping ships on their way to Europe.
“The European Union … has a major stake in the Indo-Pacific region and has every interest that the regional architecture remains open and rules-based,” the European side said in a statement in April.
However, it continued, “the current dynamics in the Indo-Pacific have led to intense geopolitical competition, leading to increased pressures on trade and supply chains as well as tensions in the technical, political and security sectors.”
Neither the European Union nor any of its member states claim sovereignty over the South China Sea. ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam claim parts of the sea as their own, overlapping China’s own border line, and Taiwan claims almost all.
France, Germany and non-EU member Britain almost a year ago issued a joint note to the United Nations challenging China’s claims at sea, which they see as a potential threat to international traffic.
“It’s very clear, they want continuity,” said Carl Thayer, Asia-Special Emeritus Professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia.
“Why? Because that’s the way you can trade. It reduces the risk,” he said.
Some of the EU’s position on the South China Sea echoes that of its western ally, the United States, which regularly sends warships to the waterway as a warning to China. For example, the EU website states that its members and ASEAN uphold the “principles of a rules-based international order”.
EU nations have stepped up their own ship movements this year as well, but experts say they are focusing more on international law than taking a pro-US position.
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If South China Sea claimants violate the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, they would open the possibility for individual countries to control European seas, said Daniel K. in Hawaii. Professor Alexander Vuwing from the Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies said. The convention establishes exclusive economic zones for maritime states, among other provisions aimed at cross-border waterway sharing.
“His primary interest is to uphold international law, maintaining open freedom of navigation, rather than siding with the United States in strategic competition with China,” Wuwing said.
Southeast Asian countries that claim the South China Sea oppose Beijing’s landfilling of small islets for military use and the passage of their ships through their exclusive economic zones.
However, they rarely use language that offends China, a major Southeast Asia trading partner, and the European Union supports that approach to the maritime dispute, according to the Singapore-based S Rajaratnam School of International. Associate Professor of Studies Alan Chong said. Both factions also look to China for trade.
“They are coming with ASEAN partly because they know that the ASEAN game is probably the safest and most secure way to maintain this dual policy of both preoccupation and compulsion,” Chong said.
Even the subtle language preferred by ASEAN is “enough for Beijing to notice”, Chong said. He said China would probably refrain from answering publicly but would ask privately the meaning of any communiqués emanating from the EU-ASEAN talks.