WASHINGTON/BRUSSELS - The European Union and the United States have expressed strong concern over what they see as China's "problematic and unilateral actions" in the South and East China Seas, as well as the Taiwan Strait.
A joint press statement issued Thursday after the first day of the second high-level meeting of the E.U.-U.S. Dialogue on China said Beijing's actions "undermine peace and security in the region and have a direct impact on the security and prosperity of both the United States and European Union."
The U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and European External Action Service Secretary General Stefano Sannino discussed "the growing list of China's actions that are of concern" and their respective approaches.
The statement said Sherman and Sannino "discussed ongoing human rights abuses and violations in China, including the systemic repression of ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang and in Tibet, and the erosion of autonomy and democracy in Hong Kong."
The two sides emphasized the importance of maintaining continuous and close contacts with each other "as we invest and grow our economies, cooperate with China where possible, and manage our competition and systemic rivalry with China responsibly."
Friday, the second day of the meeting, will focus on high-level consultations on the Indo-Pacific.
According to the statement, the U.S. and the E.U. "further reaffirmed the importance of upholding and promoting freedom of navigation and overflight in accordance with international law as reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention."
Recently both sides spoke up in support of the Philippines over China's harassment of Philippine resupply boats to their naval outpost in the South China Sea, saying Beijing's "asserting its expansive and unlawful South China Sea maritime claims undermine peace and security in the region."
'Cold War mentality'
When asked about the meeting, a Chinese Foreign Ministry's spokesman accused the E.U. and the U.S. of still holding "the Cold War mentality."
Spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters in Beijing that "China, the U.S. and the E.U. are all major international forces" and the three sides should not "engage in zero-sum games."
"Drawing ideological lines and creating small cliques is not conducive to world peace and will only harm oneself and others. Those adopting such practices would lose more than they gain," Wang said.
China claims most of the South China Sea - a stance contested by neighboring countries with overlapping claims. Beijing has repeatedly protested against the involvement of "third parties" such as the U.S. in territorial disputes, preferring bilateral settlements with countries in the region.
Washington said the U.S. is and has always been a Pacific nation and urged China to uphold international law and principles.
The first high-level meeting of the E.U.-U.S. Dialogue on China took place in May and the next one will be held in mid-2022.