Germany, France concerned over presence of Chinese vessels near reef claimed by Philippines

Published: March 31,2021 09:05 AM

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Germany & France have joined a no of countries to express concern on the growing tensions b/w China & the Philippines over a disputed reef in the South China Sea

March 31, 2021: Germany and France have joined a number of countries to express concern on the growing tensions between China and the Philippines over a disputed reef in the South China Sea where over 200 Chinese vessels are moored.

Taking to Twitter on Saturday, Michele Boccoz, the ambassador of the French Republic to the Philippines, said Germany and France are concerned about the most recent developments in the South China Sea.

"Germany and France are concerned about the most recent developments in the #SouthChinaSea which have created tensions between neighbouring countries. We call to refrain from measures which endanger peace, stability, and security in the #IndoPacific," Michele Boccoz tweeted.

Early this month, the Philippines said that over 200 Chinese vessels have massed at a disputed reef in the West Philippine sea.

In an unusual announcement published by the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) on its Facebook page, the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea said ships have "massed" at the Julian Felipe Reef, the official Philippine name for Whitsun Reef, Manila Times reported.

Julian Felipe Reef is a large boomerang-shaped shallow coral reef 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan, and northeast of Pagkakaisa banks and reefs or the Union Reefs. The reef is claimed by China and the Philippines both.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted on Monday morning that the US "stands with our ally, the Philippines" in the face of what he called China's "maritime militia" amassing at Whitsun Reef in the Spratly Islands. "We will always stand by our allies and stand up for the rules-based international order," he wrote.

The Philippines' air force has been holding air patrols over Chinese fishing vessels on the reef. Meanwhile, their air force has made repeated calls to Beijing for their withdrawal from the area, Al Jazeera reported.

In response to the Chinese vessels, the Philippines foreign ministry has filed a diplomatic protest against China while the Philippine navy and coast guard ships have been deployed in the area to monitor the situation.

"We are ready to defend our national sovereignty and protect the marine resources of the Philippines," said Philippines defence secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

An international tribunal at The Hague in 2016 supported the Philippines' claim to the reef as part of its exclusive economic zone, as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. However, the ruling was rejected by Beijing, which claims more than 90 per cent of the disputed South China Sea.

China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea and has overlapping territorial claims with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

China has been increasing its maritime activities in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea over the past few months, partly in response to Beijing's concerns over the increasing US military presence in the region because of escalating Sino-US tensions.

Beijing's rising assertiveness against counter claimants in the East and South Sea has resulted in unprecedented agreement across the Indo-Pacific. (ANI)