Relations between Southeast Asian countries and mainland China have historically ebbed and flowed. Tensions have often focused on control of islands and reefs in the Indo-Pacific. Beijing, under the leadership of Xi Jinping, has intensified this confrontation increasing the regional security volatility amidst Sino-US rivalry in the South China Sea.
Southeast Asia locates at the core of the wider Indo-Pacific region and embraces one of the globe’s most crucial bodies of water for maritime trade, the South China Sea. Being also home to vibrantly growing economies, the region holds great strategic importance for most global players. This includes the European Union (EU), whose interests in such a faraway area are of vital importance and include both economic relationships and regional security.