US, New Zealand oppose ‘unlawful’ claims, activities in South China Sea

MANILA, Philippines — The United States and New Zealand said they support calls for the freedom to navigate South China Sea in accordance with international law and at the same time expressed opposition against the illegal claims and activities in the contested waters.

In a Nay 31 joint statement, the two countries voiced their concern over what they called “strategic competition” in the Pacific region, which they say could put at risk the institutions that ensure security in the area.

“We oppose unlawful maritime claims and activities in the South China Sea that run counter to the rules-based international order, particularly UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea),” the joint statement read.

Beijing currently imposes its annual fishing moratorium on the South China Sea, which both the Philippines and Vietnam have protested against as the ban covers even Philippine waters through the West Philippine Sea, while Vietnam says the ban oversteps its sovereignty.

New Zealand, which until recently has been mum on the maritime dispute, said for the first time that it opposes the illegal claims and activities over the disputed waters.

The joint statement with Washington further noted that “a freer and more open Indo-Pacific depends on preserving the international rules-based order in the maritime domain.”

The two countries, along with Australia and the United Kingdom through the AUKUS, said they are committed to ensuring peace and stability within the region.

“We jointly recognize the importance of a strong and unified Association of Southeast Asian Nations to an open, inclusive, stable, and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” the joint statement read.