- France said it will encourage EU to send regular patrols in the West Philippine Sea amid China’s militarization of the area
- The French defense minister justified their concerns by saying the increasing tension could eventually spill over to the Arctic and the Mediterranean
- The Chinese foreign ministry, however, dismissed France’s remarks as exaggerating the regional tension
France has become the latest country to challenge China’s claim of sovereignty over nearly the entire South China (West Philippine Sea); even as it urged the European Union to send “regular and visible” patrols to the disputed territory in support of the United States’ commitment to ensure the freedom of navigation and overflight in the area.
In a speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue held recently in Singapore, France’s Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said his government will try to encourage EU nations to join US in its campaign against China’s rapid militarization of the South China Sea.
“If we want to contain the risk of conflict, we must defend this right, and defend it ourselves,” Le Drian addressed participants in the Asian security summit organized by the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies.
Le Drian’s statement came after India and Canada voiced out their own concerns over the increasing tension in the region, mainly brought by the bickering between China and the US who vowed to defend the freedom of navigation in what is generally considered part of international waters where almost $5-T in trade goods passes through each year.
Le Drian justified his apprehension over the Asian conflict by noting that its escalation could eventually spill over to the Arctic and the Mediterranean which are closer to the French shores.
“Several times per year, French navy ships cross the waters of this region, and they’ll continue to do it,” the French official said.
Mirroring the US stand on China’s aggressive moves in the West Philippine Sea, Le Drian said the statement is a message that France will continue to be present at similar forums in the coming months.
“It’s also a message that France will continue to act upon, by sailing its ships and flying its planes wherever international law will allow, and wherever operational needs request that we do so,” he added.
France is a member of G7 who released a statement in April denouncing “any intimidating, coercive or provocative unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions” in the region. G7 also urged all claimant-stets to refrain from illegal land reclamation and from building structures to be used for military purposes.
Reacting to Le Drian’s statement, the Chinese foreign ministry said the former’s remarks only served to ‘exaggerate tension’ and will not be beneficial to the regional stability.