The Truth of the So-called South China Sea Arbitration

中国驻马尔代夫大使 王福康
Wang Fukang, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Republic of Maldives

May 16, 2016

Recently, the South China Sea Arbitration unilaterally initiated and pushed forward by the Philippines has attracted international attention and raised all parties’ concerns on the tension in the South China Sea. As a stakeholder of the South China Sea Issue, it seems that China has been stuck labeled bullying small by being big and described as a challenge to peace and stability in the South China Sea.

When it comes to China’s role in the South China Sea Arbitration, what is right or wrong looks like bunches of flowers which make eyes confused. It is hard for China to shake off prejudices and misunderstandings. Accumulated hostility and confrontation becomes black clouds covering peace of the South China Sea. The diplomatic proposition of China on the South China Sea Issue is consistent and clear-cut, that is, China always upholds peace, stability and freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, always insists that the relevant disputes should be resolved through friendly consultations and negotiations by the countries directly concerned and the countries along the South China Sea coast should work together to manage disputes and maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.

The nature of the South China Sea Issue is the territorial issues and disputes of maritime delimitation. The South China Sea Islands and Reefs have been China’s territory since ancient time. That China restored Nansha Islands from Japanese was an important fruit of victory in the World Anti-Fascist War, and was solemnly announced by the Potsdam Proclamation and the Cairo Declaration. The Philippines coveted the oil and gas resources in the South China Sea, wantonly violated the UN Charter and invaded and illegally occupied 8 islands and reefs of China since 1970s. In order to conceal its invasion, the Philippines began to play “black magic”, initiated the arbitration, and tried to deny China’s existing territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests by taking advantage of the relevant stipulations of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and by claiming that the islands and reefs it had invaded and illegally occupied was located within the 200 nautical miles off its coast. The Philippines tried to mislead the international opinion and catch people’s attention by hyping the issue, which is shameful.

Paragraph 4 of the Declaration of Conduct on the South China Sea (DOC) signed by China and ASEAN Member States, including the Philippines, in 2002, clearly stipulates that “the parties concerned undertake to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned”. The Philippines still issued a statement jointly with China in 2011 undertaking to resolve disputes through negotiations and consultations. Now, the Philippines unilaterally initiated the arbitration. It is an act dishonoring its commitment to China and the world. As a result, it is a legal act that China does not accept or recognize such arbitration. Firstly, territorial issues are subject to general international law, not UNCLOS. Secondly, the declaration on optional exceptions China made in 2006 in accordance with Article 298 of UNCLOS excludes disputes concerning maritime delimitation. China’s claim is justifiable and China is also willing to discard the false and retain the true, and accept what is just in the international community.

Along the ancient maritime Silk Route, it was the Chinese people that first to discover, name and develop the South China Sea Islands and Reefs and made them a link to connect friends, neighbors and other civilizations. Now, as the initiative of 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is pushing forward, the South China Sea Islands will play a larger role in maintaining peace and prosperity under the direction of the spirit of new era featuring “openness, cooperation, mutual benefit and win-win”. Peace is deeply rooted in the gene of the Chinese nation. China has never disseminated conflicts and confrontations. The Chinese side urges the Philippines side to think from the perspective of the overall situation, address the South China Sea issue in a more constructive way and return to the track of negotiations and consultations.