- VN EXPRESS - Sep 24, 2020 -
The recent note verbale to the U.N. by the U.K., France and Germany is an unprecedented criticism of China’s South China Sea actions.
The U.K., France and Germany, also known as the Europe Big Three, or the E3, earlier this month stated China’s exercise of its so-called "historic rights" in the South China Sea, which Vietnam calls the East Sea, does not comply with international law.
In the note, the E3, as state parties to the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), reaffirmed that the integrity of UNCLOS needs to be maintained, and underlined the importance of unhampered exercise of the freedom of the high seas, in particular the freedom of navigation and over flight.
"This is the first time they have issued a note about this subject, about the South China Sea situation. They had spoken together before, but this is a significant move to issue a public, two-page, detailed letter to the U.N. about China's actions," said Jonathan Odom, Military Professor of International Law in the College of International and Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies.
In August last year, the E3 had issued a public statement expressing concern about the South China Sea situation but stopped short of direct criticism with a call for peace and stability in the sea, Odom noted.
"This is a very significant and positive step. It's important to see who these three nations are," he added.
The E3 has three of the seven largest economies in the world, not to mention two permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and they are speaking independently of any other powerful country, including the U.S.
"What is also important is all three nations are parties to the Law of the Sea Convention. So they speak with credibility, especially given that the international tribunal for the Law of the Sea is hosted in Germany," Odom said.
The E3’s note also stated that there was no legal ground for continental states to treat archipelagos or marine features as a whole entity, emphasizing the specific and exhaustive conditions set forth in UNCLOS for the application of straight and archipelagic baselines.