On August 3, the US Department of State issued a so-called press statement on the South China Sea. The statement showed total disregard of facts, confounded right and wrong, and sent a seriously wrong message. It is not conducive to efforts by the parties concerned to uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea and the Asia-Pacific region at large. The Chinese side expresses strong dissatisfaction of and firm opposition to it.
China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and adjacent waters. This is supported by clear historical facts. Moreover, China set up the office governing the Xisha, Nansha and Zhongsha Islands under the Province of Guangdong in 1959 to exercise administrative jurisdiction over the islands and reefs of the Xisha, Nansha and Zhongsha Islands and adjacent waters. The recent establishment of the Sansha City is a necessary adjustment made by China to the existing local administrative structure and is well within China’s sovereign rights.
It needs to be pointed out that over the past 20 years or more, thanks to concerted efforts of China and other countries concerned in the region, peace and stability in the South China Sea has been maintained and freedom of navigation and normal trade fully guaranteed. In 2002, China and ASEAN countries signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), which stipulated in explicit terms that territorial and jurisdictional disputes should be resolved through peaceful means and friendly consultations and negotiations between sovereign states directly concerned. Parties to the DOC also undertook not to take actions that might complicate or escalate disputes. What concerns people now is that some individual countries, showing no respect for or compliance with the DOC, have time and again resorted to provocative means, which undermined the basic principles and spirit of the DOC and created difficulties for discussing a code of conduct (COC) in the South China Sea. Therefore, while being open to discussing a COC with ASEAN countries, China believes that all parties concerned must act in strict accordance with the DOC to create the necessary conditions and atmosphere for the discussion of a COC.
Regarding the unfounded accusations made by the United States against China’s normal and reasonable acts, people cannot but question the true intention of the US side. Why has the United States chosen to turn a blind eye to the acts of some country marking out a large number of oil and gas blocks in the South China Sea and making domestic legislation claiming as its own China’s islands, reefs and waters? Why has the United States chosen on the one hand not to mention the acts of some country using naval vessel to threaten Chinese fishermen and laying groundless sovereignty claims over the islands and reefs that indisputably belong to China, while on the other hand make unfounded accusations against China’s reasonable and appropriate reaction to provocations? And why has the United States chosen to speak out all of a sudden to stir up trouble at a time when countries concerned in the region are stepping up dialogue and communication in an effort to resolve disputes and calm the situation? Such an act of being selective in approaching facts and making responses breaches the claimed US stance of not taking a position on or getting involved in the disputes. It is not conducive to unity and cooperation among countries in the region or to peace and stability in this part of the world.
Now that the global economy is weak and turbulence still persists in some countries and regions, the Asia-Pacific has emerged as a relatively stable and most dynamic region underpinning world economic recovery. The United States needs to follow the trend of the times and respect the shared aspiration and consensus of countries in the region for peace, stability and development. It should respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and act in a way that contributes to stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific and not otherwise.
Over the past 20 years or more since China and ASEAN entered into dialogue relations, the two sides have established the largest free trade area among developing countries, and jointly responded to challenges including the Asian financial crisis, the international financial crisis and major natural disasters. Cooperation has advanced in all fields. China values its friendship and cooperation with ASEAN and supports ASEAN’s integration process and its centrality in promoting East Asian cooperation. China stands ready to work with ASEAN to remove disturbance and further advance the strategic partnership between the two sides.