UK, Australia, Canada, France, Japan slam near collision of Chinese, PH ships in WPS

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 2) — The United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, and Japan have reiterated their call for respect for international law following the near collision of Chinese and Philippine vessels in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), a part of the South China Sea that Manila claims.

In separate statements, the envoys of three countries expressed concerns over China’s aggressive moves against the Philippines.

British ambassador Laure Beaufils said the UK is “concerned by continued reports of dangerous conduct towards Filipino vessels in the South China Sea.”

“The United Kingdom stands steadfast in its commitment to international law, in particular UNCLOS, in the South China Sea,” she added in her social media post.

For her part, Australian envoy Hae Kyong Yu is worried over the “unprofessional and dangerous conduct” against the Philippines.

“Australia reiterates our call for peace, stability and respect for UNCLOS in the South China Sea, a vital international waterway,” she posted on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Canadian ambassador David Hartman pointed out that “peace and stability” in the South China Sea are essential to the interests of the international community.

“Canada reiterates its call for upholding the rules-based international order in the South China Sea. We are troubled by dangerous and unprofessional conduct in this region and unreservedly support the Government of the Philippines in enforcing its sovereign rights within its EEZ,” he said.

The French Embassy in Manila noted that freedom of navigation is among France's priorities.

"Respect for international law, in particular freedom of navigation, is one of France’s priorities for action," the statement read. "We are opposed to any action that increases tensions and jeopardizes regional stability and the international order based on the rule of law."

Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party Policy Research Council chairperson Koichi Haguida also expressed concern about the "recent escalation of attempts and actions by China to change the status quo” in the WPS.

Following Haguida’s recent visit to the country last weekend, Japan and the Philippines said they will “cooperate further” regarding the tension in the disputed waters.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) earlier confirmed that a Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) ship maintained a perilous distance of 50 yards from the Philippine vessel BRP Malapascua last April 23 at the Ayungin Shoal, which is part of Manila’s exclusive economic zone.

The PCG described the CCG ship as nearly thrice the size of the Philippine patrol vessel.

An international arbitral tribunal in The Hague in 2016 affirmed the Philippines’ sovereign rights in areas of the WPS that China claims, but Beijing has consistently refused to recognize the ruling.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. earlier said that he already brought up the near-collision incident to the Chinese authorities, noting that Manila would identify fishing grounds in the WPS that would be proposed to Beijing.