France, Germany, and the UK, commonly known as EU Three or E3, have filed a joint note verbale to the United Nations to reject China’s sweeping claims over the South China Sea, heating up the lawfare that marks the involvement of ten countries so far.
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The three powers said in a note verbale dated September 16 that claims with regard to the exercise of “historic rights” over the South China Sea waters do not comply with international law and UNCLOS provisions.
They cited the arbitral award 2016 won by the Philippines against China case to support the point.
Given their legal positions as state parties to the UNCLOS, the three nations said that all maritime claims in the South China Sea “should be made and peacefully resolved in accordance with the principles and rules of UNCLOS, and the means and procedures for the settlement of disputes provided for in the Convention.”
According to Vietnamese Ambassador Nguyen Hong Thao, this joint note verbale shows the view against the seven diplomatic notes China proposed for circulation at the United Nations relating to Malaysia’s submission on continental expansion submitted to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS).
This is the first time the E3 filed a note verbale to refute China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea. The move is of great significance due to their position in the world, said Jonathan Odom, military professor of international law at Germany-based George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies.
He noted that E3 comprises UNCLOS signatories, the three biggest economies of Europe and among top seven in the world. Meanwhile, France and the UK are permanent members of the United Nations’ Security Council.
Odom said that E3 has raised an independent voice without relating to any country, including the US. They reckon they have benefits in advocating the rule of law in the South China Sea, according to VnExpress.
By showing their position, E3 has weakened China’s claims in the South China Sea, Jonathan Odom said.
Assistant Professor Vu Thanh Ca, former official at the Vietnam Administration of Sea and Islands, said the note verbale is well written and strictly follows international law, rejecting almost all Chinese claims and jurisdictions that go against the UNCLOS. The E3’s move is aimed to prevent consequences that might be caused by China’s claims and actions.
Prof. Odom said E3 might promote their consistent position stated in the note verbale at international forums namely the meetings by the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council or in bilateral meetings in the time to come.
He believes that E3 could boost their presence in the South China Sea to protect the freedom of navigation.
The note shows support for the common voice of notes and letters from Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, the US, and Australia on common perceptions of issues arising in the South China Sea.