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Folha de São Paulo Published Article of Chinese Ambassador on South China Sea
Chinese embassy to Brazil
2016/07/01

 

On June 26, 2016, Folha de São Paulo published an article of the Chinese Ambassador to Brazil Li Jinzhang on the issue of the South China Sea titled “South China Sea Issue: a rivaling of Truth and lie". The following is a transcript of his article.

 

As the so called “arbitration ruling” on the issue of the South China Sea will be released soon, there is now growing attention and publicity on the issue in the world. The Philippines tries to justify its stealing of Chinese islands by using complex propaganda and packaging means and under the pretext of international law, making it hard for people to distinguish the true from the false. Here, I would like to brief Brazilian friends about the history of this issue and the implications of compulsory arbitration so as to tell people the true story.

 

First, who has sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea? In January 2013, the Philippines unilaterally initiated a compulsory arbitration procedure, and one of its main request is to deny China’s historic rights in the South China Sea. The Philippine side claimed that “China has not exercised administration over the islands in the South China Sea” and “did not claim sovereignty over those islands and reefs until 1933”. The reality is that China included explicitly the South China Sea islands in its maps and local annals as parts of its territory over a thousand years ago, and exercised jurisdiction over the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters through establishment of administrative institutions, military patrols, productive and commercial activities. During World War II, these islands were occupied by Japan, which, according to the Cairo Declaration and Potsdam Proclamation, shall be returned to China. In many years after that, China’s sovereignty and rights and interests in the South China Sea were widely recognized by the international community. Diplomatic practices of the countries as well as leading maps and publications of many countries confirmed that the islands belong to China, providing evidence of China’s indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha islands. In the late 1960s when rich oil and gas resources were discovered in the region, countries like the Philippines began their illegal invasion and occupation of China’s Nansha islands and reefs, giving rise to the problem of the South China Sea issue.

 

 

Second, is the South China Sea arbitration legal and binding? Through bilateral documents and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, Beijing and Manila have reached the consensus to resolve disputes through negotiation sand reaffirmed the consensus on multiple occasions. The Chinese side suggested repeatedly the establishment of a mechanism for regular consultations on maritime affairs with the Philippines, which Manila ignored and unilaterally initiated the arbitration without prior consultation with the Chinese side. This violates China's right to independently choose means of dispute settlement as guaranteed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (hereinafter referred to as UNCLOS).

 

As for the arbitration itself, it seems to be related to the nature of the islands and reefs and fishing disputes, but as the legal status of these islands and reefs and the marine rights can not be separated with the issue of sovereignty, the essence of this arbitration is an issue of territorial disputes and maritime delimitation. The territorial issue is not under the jurisdiction of UNCLOS. Regarding the demarcation of maritime areas, over 30 countries, including China, have made an opting-out statement according to Article 298 of UNCLOS, excluding the use of compulsory procedures such as arbitration to resolve disputes. From the point of view of international law, the arbitration case initiated by Manila is illegal and the arbitration court lacks jurisdiction over the matter. China’s non-acceptance and non-participatory position is to defend the sanctity of international law including UNCLOS and oppose the abuse of it.

 

In fact, many lawyers and legal professionals of western countries expressed concern over the abuse of compulsory arbitration procedures. Imagine if, in the future, following this bad precedent of the Philippines, other states could package issues of territorial disputes and maritime demarcation into issues of interpreting and applying UNCLOS and submit the matters for arbitration, it will undoubtedly open a "Pandora's box" of default charges. Far from promoting the peaceful resolution of disputes, this attitude will undermine the international maritime order established by UNCLOS.

 

Third, is there a problem in the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea? As these waters constitute one of the busiest trade corridors in the world, the freedom and security of navigation in the South China Sea are closely related to the interests of major economies of the planet. Almost 70% of China’s trade and 80% of its energy imports go through the routes of the South China Sea, China values freedom and security of navigation in the South China Sea more than any other nation. Over the years, China and ASEAN countries have been working together to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea. There has never been any problem regarding the freedom of navigation and overflight countries are entitled to under international law.

 

Recently, certain country outside the region is exaggerating this issue and, under the pretext of "exercising freedom of navigation and overflight", displaying its military might in the region and increasing reconnaissance activities to create tension in these waters. All this is, in fact, biggest threat to peace and stability in the South China Sea. China will continue firmly safeguarding and ensuring the unimpeded passage in the waterways and hopes that the countries concerned will respect the sovereignty, security and interests of coastal countries, and stop provocations under the pretext of the exercise of rights to avoid disturbance of peace and stability in the region.

 

"The truth will always prevail and lies last only a few seconds." History will prove that the arbitration case on the South China Sea fabricated by the Philippines is just a political farce full of lies, which cannot deny the fact that China has sovereignty over the Nansha islands. Only frank negotiations guided by international law and based on historical facts are the right way to solve disputes. Only this can make the South China Sea a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation.

 

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