China’s position on South China sea
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.