EU: End militarization of South China Sea

MANILA, Philippines – The European Union (EU) called for an end to militarization in the disputed South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), after China's recent deployment of missiles to Woody Island.

Woody Island is part of the Paracels chain of islands in the South China Sea. Beijing claims all of the Paracels, though Hanoi and Taipei have overlapping claims.

In a statement on Friday, March 11, the EU said it was not taking sides in the maritime disputes, but wanted all parties to resolve their claims peacefully.

"The temporary or permanent deployment of military forces or equipment on disputed maritime features which affects regional security and may threaten freedom of navigation and overflight is a major concern," said the EU.

"The EU urges all claimants to resolve disputes through peaceful means, to clarify the basis of their claims, and to pursue them in accordance with international law including UNCLOS and its arbitration procedures."

Beijing's deployment of missiles last month came just as US President Barack Obama, in a summit with Southeast Asian leaders in California, called for "tangible steps" to lower tensions in the South China Sea.

The Philippines condemned China's move, saying that "such actions negate China's earlier commitment not to militarize the South China Sea."

Manila does not claim the Paracels, but filed a case against Beijing over portions of the disputed waters. (READ: Philippines: Does China think it's above the law?– with a report from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com