French Navy continues to patrol South China Sea to ensure freedom of navigation — minister
MANILA, Philippines — The French Navy continues to patrol the South China Sea to ensure freedom of navigation over the disputed waters.
French Secretary of State for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean Baptiste Lemoyne said this following President Rodrigo Duterte’s challenge to Western powers, including France, to help the Philippines assert its maritime claims.
“France is very committed to promote and defend the rule of international law. That’s why our Navy is very often patrolling, cruising in the South China Sea and we will continue,” Lemoyne told reporters in a chance interview after the PH-France Joint Economic Commission (JEC) signing ceremony on Friday in Makati City.
“Our defense minister made it very clear during the last Shangri-La dialogue a few weeks ago,” he added.
While the French minister did not issue a categorical response to Duterte’s challenge to Western nations—the United States, Britain, and France — to help Manila defend its interests in the South China Sea, Lemoyne reiterated his country’s commitment to upholding freedom of navigation in the heavily disputed waters.
“You know, we are part of the Indo-Pacific area because we have territories, we have 7,000 soldiers in the Indo-Pacific area and it’s a proof of our commitment to be sure that freedom of navigation is a fact, is real in the sea,” he pointed out.
The South China Sea is a vital economic sea lane in the Asian region, but China’s reclamation activities and militarization in the contested waterway have raised concerns on peace and stability in the area.
The Philippines, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei have conflicting claims over the South China Sea.
In 2013, the Philippines filed a case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague in The Netherlands challenging China’s sweeping claim of nearly the entire South China Sea.
In July 2016, the Hague-based court ruled in favor of the Philippines invalidating China’s nine-dash line.
The President, however, has downplayed the ruling as he sought economic and trade investments from China. (Editor: Eden Estopace)
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