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People's Daily Online

Vice FM stresses China is a staunch proponent of peace and stability in the South China Sea

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 09:36, May 31, 2015

BEIJING, May 30 -- China is a staunch proponent of peace and stability in the South China Sea, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said in a signed article on Saturday.

In the article, titled 'China-A Staunch Proponent of Peace and Stability in the South China Sea', Liu said in recent weeks, some outsiders, in disregard of historical evidence, principles of international law and facts and in an attempt to ratchet up tensions in the South China Sea, have been engaging in large-scale hyping-up of the South China Sea issue, and singing in chorus with certain claimants. China is seriously concerned about this.

Liu said China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters. Consistently upheld by successive Chinese governments, China's sovereignty and rights and interests in the South China Sea were established over a long course of history and have ample historical and legal basis. There is no need to have them strengthened through construction activities on relevant islands and reefs.

Beginning in the 1970s, some other countries claimed sovereignty over islands and reefs of China's Nansha Islands and illegally occupied dozens of them, hence the territorial disputes. Furthermore, with the establishment of the modern law of the sea regime came the issue of overlapping maritime jurisdictions. The Chinese government firmly opposes illegal occupations of China's territory. Yet in the larger interest of peace and stability in the South China Sea, we have exercised enormous restraint and remained committed to settling territorial disputes and overlapping maritime claims through direct negotiation and consultation with the countries concerned, Liu said.

Liu said a certain country made close-in maneuvers around China's Nansha islands and reefs, and claimed to conduct 'joint patrols' with other countries. This can by no means be explained away as an exercise of freedom of navigation or overflight, but is rather a crude act of muscle flexing that threatens to heighten militarization of the South China Sea. This would be utterly irresponsible and dangerous. Over the years, there has never been any issue with freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, nor would such an issue come up in the future. The South China Sea provides major shipping lanes for China's trade and imports of energy. To ensure the freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea is of vital importance to China. The Chinese government has been a strong advocate for safeguarding freedom of navigation by all countries in the South China Sea in accordance with international law. And China is actively engaged in regional cooperation on maritime security. Having said that, the right to freedom of navigation and overflight should not be abused or infringe on the sovereignty, rights and security of the littoral states, which are protected by international law.

Liu said China's construction activities on the Nansha islands and reefs are entirely within her sovereignty. It is lawful, justified, and reasonable. It does not affect or target any particular country. Such construction activities are aimed to strengthen the functions of some islands and reefs in providing multiple and integrated services. Besides meeting necessary defense needs, it is more geared to serve civilian purposes. Rather than affecting freedom of navigation, it will only contribute to joint responses to maritime challenges and to safety of navigation in the South China Sea. The recently started construction of two multi-functional lighthouses on Huayang Reef and Chigua Reef, for example, is for the purpose of providing effective aids for navigation for vessels from all countries passing through those waters and better ensuring navigation safety and freedom.

Meanwhile, certain countries have been questioning the pace and scale of China's construction activities. What needs to be pointed out is that China is a big country that shoulders more international responsibilities and obligations. China is conducting construction activities at a pace and with a scale as befitted her international responsibilities and obligations in the field of search and rescue, disaster prevention and mitigation, meteorological observation, ecological conservation, navigation safety and fishery services. China should not simply be blamed for the pace and scale of her construction activities, because this might indicate that the construction activities by other countries on their illegally-occupied islands and reefs of China's Nansha Islands are beyond reproach, Liu said.

Liu said China and ASEANcountries have been making joint efforts to deepen friendly and cooperative relations in all areas and build a community of common destiny. We identified a 'dual track' approach on the South China Sea issue, i.e. relevant disputes should be resolved through negotiation and consultation between parties directly concerned, and China and ASEAN member states should work together to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea. Thanks to common efforts by China and ASEAN countries, positive progress has been made in the consultation on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC). They reached agreement on 'early harvest' measures, and resolve to take forward COC consultations through enhancing mutual trust and cooperation. However, relevant outsiders tried to set a timetable for the COC consultation. Yet, given the complexity of the South China Sea issue, the formulation of the COC will be a step-by-step process. Moreover, the COC is meant to be a set of rules for China and countries in this region rather than rules set by outsiders for us. The efforts made by China and ASEAN countries in this regard deserve more respect.

Liu said China's policy for the South China Sea is clear and consistent. We remain committed to maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea and resolving disputes through negotiation and consultation. We support strengthening mechanisms and rules governing the South China Sea issue, including the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the formulation of the COC, as effective means to manage disputes. And we consistently stand for joint development and maritime cooperation as win-win arrangements pending the final resolution of the issue.

Liu said China firmly upholds her sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, and is opposed to any words or actions that encroach on China's sovereignty and legitimate rights and interests or affect regional peace and stability. Countries not directly concerned on the South China Sea disputes should speak and act with caution on this issue, faithfully observe their commitment of not taking positions on sovereignty disputes, and respect the efforts by countries in the region to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea. Going in another direction would be less than responsible.

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