China’s po­si­tion on South China sea

Lesotho Times - - Opinion & Analysis -

ON 13 Au­gust 2015, the Le­sotho Times pub­lished an ar­ti­cle writ­ten by Richard J. Hey­dar­ian en­ti­tled ‘China’s South Asian Dom­i­na­tion. In or­der to let Ba­sotho read­ers have a full pic­ture and bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the is­sue, I would like to rec­om­mend that your es­teemed news­pa­per pub­lish the re­marks by H.E. Chi­nese For­eign Min­is­ter Mr Wang Yi dur­ing the For­eign Min­is­ters’ Meet­ings of the East Asia Sum­mit (EAS) and ASEAN Re­gional Fo­rum (ARF) on 6 Au­gust, in which he com­pre­hen­sively elab­o­rated China’s po­si­tions on South China Sea is­sue. The key points of the re­marks are as fol­lows :

“First, the sit­u­a­tion in the South China Sea is sta­ble on the whole, and there is no pos­si­bil­ity of ma­jor con­flicts. China also has a stake in the free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion in the South China Sea. The ma­jor­ity of Chi­nese cargo are shipped through the South China Sea, so free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion in the South China Sea is equally im­por­tant to China.

China al­ways main­tains that coun­tries en­joy free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion and over­flight in the South China Sea in ac­cor­dance with the in­ter­na­tional law. Up to now, there has not been a sin­gle case in which free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion in the South China Sea is im­peded. China stands ready to work with other par­ties to con­tinue to en- sure free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion and over­flight in the South China Sea.

Sec­ond, as for the dis­putes on Nan­sha is­lands and reefs, this is a long-stand­ing is­sue. The South China Sea Is­lands are China’s ter­ri­tory. There is a his­tory of two thou­sand years since China dis­cov­ered and named the is­lands in the South China Sea. Sev­enty years ago, pur­suant to the Cairo Dec­la­ra­tion and the Pots­dam Procla­ma­tion, China law­fully re­cov­ered the Nan­sha and Xisha Is­lands which were il­le­gally oc­cu­pied by Ja­pan and re­sumed ex­er­cise of sovereignty.

As a mat­ter of fact, the mil­i­tary ves­sels China used in re­cov­er­ing the is­lands were pro­vided by the United States, an Al­lied Na­tion. It was not un­til the 1970s when there were re­ports about oil un­der the South China Sea that some coun­tries be­gan to in­vade and oc­cupy Nan­sha is­lands and reefs, un­der­min­ing China’s law­ful rights and in­ter­ests.

Third, the del­e­gate of the Philip­pines men­tioned the South China Sea is­sue, but he fell short of speak­ing out the truth. Ac­cord­ing to the Treaty of Paris in 1898, the Treaty of Wash­ing­ton in 1900 and the Con­ven­tion Be­tween the United States and Great Bri­tain of 1930 which de­fined the ter­ri­tory of the Philip­pines, the western boundary of the Philip­pines is de­lim­ited by 118 de­grees east lon­gi­tude.

The Huangyan Is­land and Nan­sha Is­lands are com­pletely to the west of 118 de­grees east lon­gi­tude. Af­ter the Philip­pines gained in­de­pen­dence, the do­mes­tic law of the Philip­pines, and the rel­e­vant treaties con­cluded by the Philip­pines all ac­cepted the le­gal force of the three treaties men­tioned above.

Nev­er­the­less, af­ter the 1970s, the Philip­pines staged four mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions and il­le­gally in­vaded and oc­cu­pied eight is­lands and reefs of China’s Nan­sha Is­lands. Another ex­am­ple is that in 1999, the Philip­pines il­le­gally “stranded” an old war­ship on the Ren’ai Reef, which is part of China’s Nan­sha Is­lands.

Later, the Philip­pine side in­di­cated to the Chi­nese side that it would not be the first coun­try to vi­o­late the Dec­la­ra­tion on the Con­duct of Par­ties in the South China Sea (DOC). Now 15 years have passed and the old war­ship has al­ready be­come ex­tremely rusty.

The Philip­pines, in­stead of keep­ing its prom­ise of re­mov­ing the war- ship, has pub­licly stated that it had stealth­ily trans­ported ce­ment and other build­ing ma­te­ri­als to the war­ship in or­der to re­in­force the in­stal­la­tion. What in­ter­na­tional cred­i­bil­ity is there in the con­duct of the Philip­pines?

Fourth, the del­e­gate of Ja­pan also men­tioned the South China Sea is­sue and claimed that all ar­ti­fi­cial land fea­tures can­not gen­er­ate any le­gal rights. But over the past years, Ja­pan spent 10 bil­lion yen build­ing the Rock of Okino­tori, turn­ing this tiny rock on the sea into a man-made is­land with steel bars and ce­ment. And on that ba­sis, Ja­pan sub­mit­ted its claim to the United Na­tions over the con­ti­nen­tal shelf be­yond the 200-nau­ti­calmile exclusive eco­nomic zone.

The ma­jor­ity mem­bers of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity found Ja­pan’s claim in­con­ceiv­able and did not ac­cept it. China is dif­fer­ent from Ja­pan. Our claim over rights in the South China Sea has long been in ex­is­tence.

Fifth, the US side re­cently pro­posed “three stops”. But in our view, the US pro­posal is not fea­si­ble. For in­stance, what is to be stopped? As par­ties have dif­fer­ent po­si­tions, what are the cri­te­ria for stop­ping? Who will set the spe­cific cri­te­ria? There is no an­swer to these ques­tions. That said, China still wel­comes con­struc­tive sug­ges­tions from all coun­tries on main­tain­ing peace and sta­bil­ity in the South China Sea. But such sug­ges­tions must be fea­si­ble and, more im­por­tantly, should not im­pose dou­ble stan­dards.

Sixth, as for the land recla­ma­tion in the South China Sea which is of in­ter­est to some coun­tries, it is noth­ing new and does not start with China. In other words, peo­ple have been bring­ing changes to the “sta­tus quo” all these years. It was only re­cently that China, for the first time, car­ried out cer­tain con­struc­tion on some sta­tioned is­lands and reefs in the Nan­sha Is­lands in or­der to im­prove the work­ing and liv­ing con­di­tions of per­son­nel there.

In the process, we have en­forced strict en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards. At the end of June, China an­nounced the com­ple­tion of land recla­ma­tion. Next, we will build fa­cil­i­ties mainly for pub­lic good pur­poses, in­clud­ing multi-func­tional light­house, search and res­cue fa­cil­i­ties for mar­itime emer­gen­cies, me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal ob­ser­va­tory sta­tion, mar­itime sci­en­tific and re­search cen­tre, as well as med­i­cal and first aid fa­cil­i­ties.

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