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Philippines: German FM alarmed by South China Sea tensions

January 11, 2024

Germany's top diplomat said on a visit to the Philippines that the "world doesn't need another crisis." She criticized China's maritime maneuevers during talks with Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Philippines Minister of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock vowed solidarity with the Philippines amid maritime disputes with ChinaImage: Dominik Butzmann/AA/photothek/picture alliance

Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Thursday expressed concern about elevated tensions in the South China Sea during a visit to the Philippines. 

What did Baerbock say?

"I have just come from the Middle East, where the situation continues to be extremely dangerous, and the risk that one more spark could set the whole region ablaze still exists," she said in a press briefing after meeting her counterpart, Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo.

"I am saying this because in your region, tensions are rising too," Baerbock added.

There have been flaring tensions in recent months between Beijing and Manila with barbs traded over a number of confrontations in the contested waters, including allegations that China rammed a ship last month carrying the Philippine armed forces chief of staff.

"Such risky maneuvers violate the rights and economic development opportunities of your country and other neighboring countries," Baerbock said.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, second from left, talks with Philippine Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Ronnie Gil Gavan as they observe a drone donated from Germany to the Philippines
Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited the Philippine Coast Guard headquarters in ManilaImage: Aaron Favila/AA/picture alliance

Manalo thanked Baerbock "for Germany's unflinching support for international law."

"Germany is a valuable partner with the Philippines not only in bilateral terms, but also in regional and international," he said.

Manila warns Beijing over South China Sea dispute

Contested waters

A number of countries, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, lay competing territorial claims to parts of the sea.

However, China claims sovereignty over nearly all of the sea, pointing to a line on its maps that cuts into the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.

The German Foreign Ministry said in a post on X that "China's claims to extensive maritime areas were rejected by an arbitration tribunal in 2016," on the basis of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

UNCLOS is an international agreement providing a legal framework for all marine and maritime activities to which 168 countries and the EU are parties to.

China has rejected the 2016 ruling.

After her visit to the Philippines, Baerbock will head to Malaysia and Singapore in further attempts to strengthen German ties with Southeast Asian countries.

kb/wd (dpa, Reuters)