MANILA (Reuters) – Germany’s foreign minister criticised the Chinese coastguard’s activities in the South China Sea, including its use of lasers and water cannon, during a visit on Thursday to the Philippines, saying the actions were causing concern in Europe too.
Tension has flared in recent months between China and the Philippines as they have traded accusations over several run-ins in the waterway, including charges that China rammed a ship last month carrying the Philippine armed forces chief of staff.
“Such risky manoeuvres violate the rights and economic development opportunities of your country and other neighbouring countries,” Annalena Baerbock told a joint news conference with Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo.
“For countries around the world, they call into question the freedom of the sea routes guaranteed under international law in an area through which a third of global maritime trade flows,” she said.
China claims sovereignty over nearly the entire South China Sea, pointing to a line on its maps that cuts into the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.
In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague said China’s claims had no legal basis. China has rejected that ruling.
“The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea speaks clearly to China’s claims to extensive maritime areas in the South China Sea,” said Baerbock, who also met with the Philippine president and separately with the chief of the Philippine Coast Guard onboard a ship.
Baerbock was in Manila for a two-day official visit, the first by a German foreign minister to the Philippines in more than a decade, as the two nations mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.
(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Gareth Jones)