China’s Position on South China Sea

China was the first to discover, name, develop and operate on the Nansha Islands. It is also the first country that exercised and has been exercising sovereign jurisdiction over the islands, which has been long recognised by the international community including the Philippines. China resolutely safeguards national territorial sovereignty, sovereign rights and interests, and remains committed to maintaining regional peace and stability.

With a view to upholding peace and stability in the South China Sea, China have exercised utmost restraint over the past years. China's approach toward solving the South China Sea issue is to have direct dialogue and negotiation between claimants, which is more effective and sustainable. China's basic proposition is: we seek to peacefully resolve disputes through negotiation and consultation on the basis of respecting historical facts and in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This position will not change. Through friendly consultations, China and ASEAN countries have developed a full set of mechanisms to properly handle the South China Sea issue. First, the issue shall be resolved through a dual-track approach, which means specific disputes should be addressed peacefully by parties directly concerned through consultation and negotiation.

This is stipulated in Article 4 of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), and it is also a joint commitment by China and the 10 ASEAN countries. The dual-track approach also means that peace and stability in the South China Sea shall be jointly upheld by China and ASEAN countries. Second, the parties shall implement the DOC in good faith and work toward a Code of Conduct (COC) through consultation. Now, smooth progress has been made in implementing the DOC, and COC consultation is also moving forward.

In less than two years since the beginning of the consultation, we have already adopted two lists of commonalities, started consultation on "crucial and complex issues", and agreed to establish two hotline platforms which will be up and running soon. Third, China has taken the initiative to propose the formulation of "preventive measures on managing perils at sea". On this new platform, various parties may put forward proposals and ideas for discussion.

China always stands for peaceful settlement of disputes through diplomatic dialogue and negotiations, and China's way of addressing disputes over territory and maritime rights and interests through bilateral consultations and negotiations has proven effective. As a matter of fact, China has properly settled land boundary issues with 12 countries and completed the delimitation of maritime boundary in the Beibu Bay with Vietnam. China will continue to follow its current practice and will not accept arbitration as a way to settle disputes over territory and maritime rights and interests.

The South China Sea Islands have been China's territory since ancient times. There is a history of 2,000 years since China discovered and named the islands in the South China Sea. As early as the Northern Song Dynasty more than 1,000 years ago, the then Chinese government had already established jurisdiction over the Xisha Islands, with regular naval patrols in the area. Successive Chinese governments have exercised continuous jurisdiction over the islands by means of administrative control, military patrol, production and business operations, and maritime disaster relief, among others. After the Japanese war of aggression against China, Japan occupied China's Xisha and Nansha islands. 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 and garrisoned troops and built various military and civilian facilities on the islands, thus resuming exercise of sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands de jure and de facto.

The above-mentioned two documents clearly stipulated in the two

documents that Japan shall return the Chinese territory it had stolen from China. In the document on normalisation of its diplomatic ties with China, Japan also made explicit commitment to complying with the relevant provisions of the Potsdam Proclamation.This historical fact must have been recorded in the archives of the countries you represent.

It is well known that in the late 1960s, a report of the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East stirred up the South China Sea. To vie for interests in oil resources, some countries laid territorial claims to China' s Nansha Islands and illegally occupied some of the islands and reefs, giving rise to the South China Sea issue. In essence, China is the victim of the South China Sea issue. The core of the South China Sea issue rests with the territorial disputes on islands and reefs, and overlapping claims on maritime rights and interests in waters of the South China Sea, which are caused by the illegal occupation of some islands and reefs of China's Nansha Islands by some coastal countries.

Formed in the long historic course, China's sovereignty and relevant rights in the South China Sea have solid historic and legal basis, and have been upheld by successive Chinese governments.

The South China Sea Islands are China's territory. 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. According to international law, China has the right to defend its sovereignty, rights and interests, and China has the right to prevent the repeat of such illegal moves as encroaching upon China's lawful rights and interests. At the request of the Republic of the Philippines, International Court of Justice (ICC) has established a Arbitral Tribunal on the South China Sea. However, the Chinese government will not accept nor participate in the South China Sea arbitration unilaterally initiated by the Philippines.

First, China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands and the adjacent waters. As a sovereign state and a State Party to the UNCLOS, China is entitled to choose the means and procedures of dispute settlement of its own will. China has all along been committed to resolving disputes with its neighbours over territory and maritime jurisdiction through negotiations and consultations. China and the Philippines have repeatedly reaffirmed in bilateral documents since the 1990s and the DOC in 2002 that they shall resolve relevant disputes through negotiations and consultations.

Second, disregarding that the essence of this arbitration case is territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation and related matters, maliciously evading the declaration on optional exceptions made by China in 2006 under Article 298 of the UNCLOS, and negating the consensus between China and the Philippines on resolving relevant disputes through negotiations and consultations, the Philippines and the Arbitral Tribunal have abused relevant procedures, misrepresented the law and obstinately forced ahead with the arbitration, and as a result, have severely violated the legitimate rights that China enjoys as a State Party to the UNCLOS, completely deviated from the purposes and objectives of the UNCLOS, and eroded the integrity and authority of the UNCLOS.

Third, as a State Party to the UNCLOS, China firmly opposes the acts of abusing the compulsory procedures for dispute settlement under the UNCLOS, and calls upon all parties concerned to work together to safeguard the integrity and authority of the UNCLOS.

China urges the Philippines to honour its own commitments, respect China's rights under international law, change its course and return to the right track of resolving relevant disputes in the South China Sea through negotiations and consultations. That is the correct path with bright prospects.

Source: MMEGI