London/Beijing: Europe has severe criticised China and said that its so-called ‘historic rights’ over the South China Sea are not in accordance to international law and that it was essential to exercise the freedom of navigation in the waters. In a statement issued at the United Nations (UN), the three leading nations of Europe, namely, Germany, France and the UK (Europe’s Big Three) have taken this stand and is the first time they have come together to warn China. The statement, once again, highlighted the resentment the European countries have against China and underscored the growing rift between the two sides. Europe’s latest shock, when the US has already picked an intense conflict against China on issues such as trade war and Coronavirus, has dealt a severe blow to the country.
The US and Europe are repeatedly observed to have disagreed on issues related to China. However, the situation is slowly changing in the wake of Corona outbreak, and discontent against China in Europe is growing as well. The handling of the Corona epidemic by the Chinese regime, as well as its decisions regarding Hong Kong and the Uyghurs, have been a prime source of Europe’s displeasure. China seems to have ignored the European Union’s warnings and appeals regarding reconsideration of relations with the country. Given the situation, the scornful response of Europe’s Big Three on the South China Sea is significant.
In their statement, the European countries have mentioned the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). They have warned that all countries must respect decisions made within the UN framework. The statement also emphasised on the Freedom of Navigation, an issue which has been consistently raised by the US. As these three countries are parties to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, their statement has gained importance. The European countries have formerly expressed their opinion regarding the South China Sea issue, but this is for the very first time that they have hit out at China directly.
Last month, the US announced its policy regarding the South China Sea issue by making it clear that it would not accept any of China’s claims. Later on, Australia reiterated the role of the United States in its policy. China responded by claiming that the South China Sea was its sovereign part. However, analysts have argued that although the European countries are likely to get a similar response from China, the dissatisfaction expressed by Europe came as a massive shock to China at the international level.