The UK has announced its stance on legal issues in the South China Sea with a focus on the observance of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
|Royal Navy warship HMS Argyll joined the US Navy for combined workout in the South China Sea in January 2019. Photo: US Navy|
In the announcement released early September 2020, the Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) said the UK’s stance on the South China Sea has been revealed and available in the public for years in which it has committed to comply with international law, including UNCLOS 1982.
The UK calls on all related parties to restrain their activities that might cause escalating tensions, including land reclamation, construction, and militarization. It also calls for self-restraint and responsible behavior in accordance with international obligations.
Announcing its stance on the South China Sea of which China claims up to 80%, the UK becomes the third country outside the South China Sea region to protest Beijing’s maritime claims.
The UK's closest ally, the US, on June 1, 2020 sent a note verbale to the United Nations to oppose China’s claims in the South China Sea that Washington calls “unlawful.” It said the US “rejects these maritime claims as inconsistent with international law as reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention.”
On July 13, 2020, the US made a crystal clear position on the sea, saying that Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the sea are completely unlawful as the China has stepped up aggression in this disputed sea where a major part of world trade passes through.
Meanwhile, Australia on July 23, 2020 sent a note verbale to the UN providing the most detailed rejection of China’s claims. Australia was the first country to mention the Paracel Islands. The Oceanian country stated it did not accept China’s argument that its sovereignty claims were “widely accepted by the international community” and cited protests by the Philippines and Vietnam to document its objections.
|Leaders of E3: Then British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: Anadolu Agency|
In August 2019, the UK, together with France, and Germany called EU Three or E3 released a joint statement showing concerns over the situation in the South China Sea.
“We are concerned about the situation in the South China Sea which could lead to insecurity and instability in the region,” the trio said in the statement.
“As State parties of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), France, Germany, and the UK underline their interest in 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. They recall in this regard the Arbitration Award rendered under UNCLOS on 12 July 2016,” said the statement.
Furthermore, France, Germany, and the UK welcome the on-going negotiations between the ASEAN member States and China in view of achieving a rules-based, co-operative and effective Code of Conduct consistent with UNCLOS in the South China Sea and encourage progress towards its early conclusion, the statement noted.