Wed, 12 May 2021

Brussels [Belgium], April 19 (ANI): The European Union should reinforce its strategic focus, presence and actions in the Indo-Pacific with the aim of contributing to the stability and security of the region, based on the rule of law, human rights and international law, said the European Council on Monday.

The Council today adopted conclusions on an EU strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, setting out the EU's intention to reinforce its strategic focus, presence and actions in this region of prime strategic importance for EU interests. The aim is to contribute to regional stability, security, prosperity and sustainable development, at a time of rising challenges and tensions in the regionThe European Council's 10-page conclusions come as China continues to threaten the security of the region by claiming sovereignty in most parts of the region.

The council said that the bloc and its Member States are already "working together comprehensively" in the region, significantly contributing to the development and humanitarian assistance, tackling climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, concluding ambitious free trade agreements, and contributing to the upholding of international law including human rights and freedom of navigation.

The council also said the cooperation with the region is "crucial" for achieving the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. The EU and the countries of the Indo-Pacific also share the common task of addressing the devastating human and economic effects of the COVID19 crisis for many countries and the need to ensure a sustainable and inclusive socio-economic recovery and improve the resilience of health systems.

"The Council considers that the EU should reinforce its strategic focus, presence and actions in the Indo-Pacific with the aim of contributing to the stability, security, prosperity and sustainable development of the region, based on the promotion of democracy, rule of law, human rights and international law," read the set of conclusions adopted by the council.

"The Council notes however with concern the current dynamics in the Indo-Pacific that have given rise to intense geopolitical competition adding to increasing tensions on trade and supply chains as well as in technological, political and security areas. The universality of human rights is also being challenged. These developments increasingly threaten the stability and security of the region and beyond," the council stated further.

Consequently, the EU's approach and engagement will look to foster a rules-based international order, a level playing field, as well as an open and fair environment for trade and investment, reciprocity, the strengthening of resilience, tackling climate change and supporting connectivity with the EU.

The EU will further develop partnerships and strengthen synergies with likeminded partners and relevant organizations in security and defence, said the council that will include responding to challenges to international security, including maritime security, malicious cyber activities, disinformation, as well as from emerging and disruptive technologies, countering and improving resilience to terrorism, violent extremism and hybrid threats,countering organised crime and illicit trafficking, in full compliance with international law.

"The EU will continue advancing its quality and sustainable connectivity priorities and actions in the region, in particular through EU institutions and Member States cooperating practically with partners on the ground who share the principles of quality and sustainable connectivity based on international norms and standards and a level-playing field," the council said in the conclusions adopted.

According to an official statement, the renewed EU commitment to the Indo-Pacific, a region spanning from the east coast of Africa to the Pacific island states, will have a long-term focus and will be based on the rule of law and respect for international law.

The Council tasked the High Representative and the Commission with putting forward a Joint Communication on cooperation in the Indo-Pacific by September 2021.

The bloc's adoption of conclusions come as US President Joe Biden and Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga last week reiterated their calls for a free and open Indo-Pacific region. The meeting between Biden and Suga is their first face-to-face meeting since the US President took office in January.

According to a joint leaders' statement posted on the White House website, the two leaders exchanged views on the impact of China's actions on peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and the world and shared their concerns over Chinese activities that are inconsistent with the international rules-based order, including the use of economic and other forms of coercion.

China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea and has overlapping territorial claims with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

China has been increasing its maritime activities in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea over the past few months, partly in response to Beijing's concerns over the increasing US military presence in the region because of escalating Sino-US tensions.

Beijing's rising assertiveness against counter claimants in the East and South Sea has resulted in unprecedented agreement across the Indo-Pacific. (ANI)

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