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Wang Yi Stresses "Four Respects" on South China Sea Issue

On the evening of August 4, 2021, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated China's principled position on the South China Sea issue when attending the 11th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' Meeting, calling on all parties to adhere to "four respects" on the South China Sea issue and urging non-regional forces to stop extending their hands to the South China Sea.

Wang Yi said, first, we need to respect the historical facts. China is the first to have discovered, named and explored Nanhai Zhudao (the South China Sea islands) and relevant waters, and the first to have continuously, peacefully and effectively exercised sovereignty and jurisdiction over them. After World War II, the Chinese government resumed the exercise of authority over Nanhai Zhudao illegally occupied by Japan in accordance with the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation, which formed an important part of the post-World War II international order. In the 1950s and 1960s, the United States repeatedly applied to China for surveying in Nansha Qundao (the Nansha Islands). Official maps published by Japan and other countries also labeled Nansha Qundao as China's territory. These are facts that can be traced back to history and cannot be denied.

Second, we need to respect laws. According to international law, China has sovereignty over Nansha Qundao and naturally has corresponding maritime rights and interests. This is not inconsistent with the provisions of the later adopted United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. China has never changed the basis of its claim, nor has it raised any new claims. The allegation that China claims all waters within the dotted line as its internal waters and territorial sea is a deliberate distortion of China's position.

Third, we need to respect consensus. Adhering to peaceful settlement of disputes by countries directly concerned through consultation and negotiation is a joint commitment made by China and ASEAN countries in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. All parties should continue to abide by and implement it with concrete actions, refraining from unilateral actions that aggravate tensions and widen differences, or using force or threat of force in particular. At the same time, the early conclusion of a more binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea is a new goal set by China and ASEAN countries. We have reached a consensus on the early conclusion of effective and substantive regional rules in line with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. We will continue to overcome the disruption of the pandemic and move forward with determination.

Fourth, we need to respect regional countries. With the joint efforts of China and ASEAN countries, the South China Sea has maintained a stable situation in general and witnessed no problem in freedom of navigation and overflight. However, some countries outside the region desired to stir up trouble and have willfully launched a large number of advanced warships and warcraft into the South China Sea, deliberately inducing other countries outside the region to "show their powers" in the South China Sea and openly sowing discord among countries in the region, especially countries concerned. China and ASEAN countries should be keenly aware of the malicious intentions of non-regional forces and firmly say "no" to any action that undermines peace and stability in the South China Sea and that destroys the unity and cooperation of regional countries. At the same time, we should also warn these non-regional forces that you should respect the efforts of regional countries to safeguard peace and stop trying to reach out to the South China Sea.

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