France aims to push European Union countries to coordinate navy patrols in the disputed South China Sea, French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said at the Shangri-La Asian defence forum in Singapore on Sunday, according to Bloomberg.
A senior French official travelling with the minister said France will discuss plans with EU partners in coming weeks, with a focus on guaranteeing that EU navies regularly crisscross the waters.
"Could we not have the European navies coordinate in order to ensure a regular visible presence in maritime areas in Asia? Soon I will be detailing this proposal to my European counterparts," Mainichi quoted Le Drian as saying.
He said the South China Sea issue "directly concerns" France and other EU members not only because of their economic interest in maintaining freedom of navigation, but also because of their belief in "firmness when the rule of law is violated."
Le Drian's proposal echoes the U.S. justification of its enhanced naval presence in the South China Sea to protect vital commercial shipping lanes through which an estimated $5.3 trillion worth of trade flows annually.
Le Drian said he regretted that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations had not made substantial progress toward a code of conduct with China on the South China Sea.