The South China Sea should be a Sea of Peace and Cooperation
Tang Guoqiang, Ambassador of China to Norway

On June 8, Dagsavisen carried an article concerning the South China Sea. To help readers better understand the situation, I would like to elaborate some basic facts and China's position.

China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha islands and their adjacent waters in the South China Sea. It is supported by sufficient historical and legal evidences. China was the first country which discovered, named, developed and exercised jurisdiction over the Nansha Islands. China's continued sovereignty over the Islands has long been recognized by the international community.

The "Cairo Declaration", "Potsdam Proclamation" and other international papers clearly stipulated that the Chinese territories including the Nansha Islands occupied by Japan should be returned. For a long period after the Second World War, there had never been the South China Sea issues. No country in the surrounding area of the South China Sea objected China's sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and the adjacent waters. Many governments and the resolutions of International Conferences recognized the Nansha Islands as China's territory. Britain, France, Japan, the United States and Vietnam marked clearly in their authoritative publications that the Nansha Islands belonged to China.

Starting from the 1970s, some countries in the surrounding area of the South China Sea occupied some reefs of the Nansha Islands and went even further to claim sovereignty. The Chinese Government has repeatedly declared that these actions impaired China's territorial sovereignty and therefore were illegal, and null and void.

The illegal occupations and the resulting disputes constitute the core of the South China Sea issues. Since then, these countries have made their claims on exclusive economic zones and continental shelves, which are overlapping and leading to disputes among them, making the issue even more complicated. In this respect, China is not the creator of the South China Sea issues. China has always maintained that international disputes should be settled by peaceful negotiations. The Chinese side has made and will continue to make efforts to properly resolve the disputes with the relevant countries in this spirit and with reference to international laws and modern laws of the sea including the "United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea".

China is committed to the peace and stability of the South China Sea. In 2002 China and ASEAN countries signed the "Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea," whose essence is to exercise restraint, promote cooperation and enhance mutual trust, so as to create appropriate atmosphere for the final settlement of these disputes. At present, the overall situation in the South China Sea is generally stable. China and ASEAN countries have maintained a positive momentum of dialogue and consultation in implementing the Declaration. The channels between China and countries concerned for consultations and negotiations have been open and smooth. The Chinese Government has also put forward proposal of "putting aside disputes and seeking common development", which is not only our words, but also concrete action.

In recent years, some countries have taken actions detrimental to China's sovereignty in the South China Sea. The Chinese side has always maintained that these issues should be resolved with the countries concerned through diplomatic channels and by peaceful negotiations. This fully demonstrates China's sincerity in maintaining the regional stability and the friendly bilateral relations. China stands that all countries, big or small, are equal. Being a big country in the region, China also has its own legitimate concerns. It is not reasonable to claim China's expression of legitimate concerns as coercion.

China attaches great importance to the navigation freedom and safety of international waterways in the South China Sea. China's safeguarding of its sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and its maritime rights and interests do not affect the free movement of foreign ships and aircrafts under the international law. In fact, China has never intervened in free passage of foreign ships and aircrafts in the region, and will not do so in future. China is ready to make efforts together with the littoral countries to jointly maintain the safety of international waterways in this region.

The South China Sea issue concerns only China and the relevant countries. Any external intervention is not desirable, since it only complicates further the situation. China and the relevant countries are fully capable of and confident in handling properly their differences. The South China Sea would be a sea of peace and cooperation.

("Dagsavisen", June 23, 2011)

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