By Zhong Sheng
China is firmly opposed to and strongly dissatisfied with the so-called statement concerning the South China Sea released by the US Department of State on Monday.
The statement, in total disregard of the efforts made by regional countries to safeguard peace and stability in the region, is an arbitrary distortion of facts about the South China Sea and international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). It heightens the tension in the region, deliberately drives a wedge between China and its neighbors, and makes groundless accusations against China.
This irresponsible statement only exposes the US neglect of the history and facts of the South China Sea, and violated the US government’s commitment of not taking sides on relevant disputes.
The activities of the Chinese people in the South China Sea date back to over 2,000 years ago. China is the first to have discovered, named, explored and exploited Nanhai Zhudao (the South China Sea Islands) and relevant waters, and the first to have exercised sovereignty and jurisdiction over them continuously, peacefully and effectively.
China’s sovereignty over Nanhai Zhudao and relevant rights and interests in the South China Sea have been established in the long course of history, and are solidly grounded in history and law, which is in accordance with the international law, including the Charter of the United Nations and the UNCLOS.
The Chinese side holds a clear and consistent position on the South China Sea issue, and always treats countries in the region as equals and exercises maximum restraint when safeguarding China’s sovereignty, rights and interests in the South China Sea.
Pursuant to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) signed by China and the ASEAN Member States in 2002, China is committed to resolving territorial and jurisdictional disputes through friendly consultations and negotiations with sovereign states directly concerned and to jointly maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea with ASEAN countries.
Currently, with the joint efforts of China and ASEAN states, the situation in the South China Sea is basically stable, and shows a good development momentum. China and ASEAN states have made much progress in cooperation in maritime search and rescue, marine conservation and scientific research. The talks on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) are proceeding smoothly and speedily, with the second reading of the text already begun.
In the Joint Communique of the 52nd ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, the ten foreign ministers of the ASEAN states welcomed efforts to complete the first reading of the Single Draft COC Negotiating, and said they were encouraged by the progress of the substantive negotiations. They also stressed that jointly safeguarding peace and stability benefits all parties.
Amid the ongoing global efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, China has worked with ASEAN states to fight the public health crisis in good faith. Both sides have assisted and supported each other, and further strengthened mutual trust.
Ships and planes carrying anti-epidemic supplies sail in and fly over the South China Sea, a body of water that’s witnessing mutual assistance and cooperation between China and ASEAN.
The US, as a country outside the region, wishes nothing but chaos in the South China Sea so that it can gain from the muddied waters. To this end, it goes to great lengths to stoke troubles and sow discord between China and other regional countries.
It flexes its muscles by sending the most advanced aircraft and vessels to the South China Sea, and frequently jeopardizes regional peace and stability with its navigation hegemony practices. Without doubt, it is the US who started to militarize the South China Sea, sabotages and interferes in peace and stability of the region.
Under the pretext of the South China Sea issue, the US drives a wedge among regional countries, which runs counter to the regional countries’ pursuit of peace.
Recently, the US has purposely sent powerful military force to the relevant waters for large-scale exercises, which only revealed its malicious motives to promote militarization of the South China Sea. Relevant countries must remain highly alert.
Peace and stability in the South China Sea is vital to the security, development and prosperity of the countries and the well-being of the people in the region. To realize peace, stability, prosperity and development in the South China Sea is a shared aspiration and responsibility of China and ASEAN Member States, and serves the common interests of all countries.
China will stay committed to safeguarding its sovereignty and security, maintain the friendly cooperative relations with regional countries, and resolutely safeguard peace and stability in the region. The US tricks to stir up troubles will be in vain, and so will its motive to muddy the waters in the South China Sea.
(Zhong Sheng is a pen name often used by People’s Daily to express its views on foreign policy.)