News South China Sea: Waters of Contention

German envoy expresses concerns over escalating tensions in the West PH Sea

German Ambassador to the Philippines Andreas Michael Pfaffernoschke (center) with David Klebs, German Embassy Manila economic counsellor (left) and Mathias Kruse, deputy head of mission.

Germany is urging all parties involved in the South China Sea situation to “refrain from using violence” as it closely monitors the escalating tensions in the area, German Ambassador Andreas Pfaffernoschke said Tuesday.

In a media briefing on Germany’s priority areas, projects and initiatives in the Philippines, Pfaffernoschke said they are for adherence to international law and rules-based order in the South China Sea.

“Stability in the South China Sea is a key issue and we are concerned and we appeal to all parties to refrain from violence and find peaceful solutions,” he said.

The German envoy also said “Every time you had an incident in the South China Sea. Germany stands with the Philippines and underlines the importance of international rules-based order.”

Hostile incidents between the Chinese and Filipino Coast Guards have been frequent in the past weeks and months as China becomes more aggressive in blocking vessels bringing food and other supplies to the Marines manning the grounded BRP Sierra Madre in Philippine-China -contested Ayungin Shoal.

China has used water cannons and military grade laser against Philippine supply vessels going to Ayungin shoal.

In 2022, to support the Philippine government secure “the rule-based order along the Philippine’s coastline” Germany and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) donated two units of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

First time observer in 2024 PH-U.S. Balikatan military exercises

Pfaffernoschke also announced that Germany, for the first time, will be participating in the annual Philippine-US war games or Balikatan exercises this year by sending an observer.

“The Philippine government has invited us for the first time and we reply positively and we will send an observer for the first time and see what comes next,” he said.

Germany is one of the 14 nations that will participate in this year’s Balikatan Exercises as observer. More than 16,000 members of the Philippine and U.S. military will train together from April 22 to May 10 in Lapaz Sand Dunes, Laoag City.

Asked if Germany is willing to join multilateral patrols in the South China Sea following the recently-concluded multilateral maritime cooperative activity between the Philippines, United States, Japan and Australia, Pfaffernoschke said it’s a matter of “willingness and capability”.

“The willingness is something we have to consider carefully but we also have limits. We are not a maritime power as is France, as is Australia as is the US in this region,” he said.