China Committed to Peace, Stability and Navigation Freedom of South China Sea
2016/01/13

Recently, China has finished building a new airport on Yongshu Reef of China's Nansha Islands. The Chinese government conducted a test flight to the airport with two civilian aircrafts in order to test whether or not the facilities on it meet the standards for civil aviation, which is all about the technical, civil, and for international public service. However, Some people have misunderstanding on it. It is necessary to make a clarification from both historical and realistic perspectives, to learn the truth of South China Sea issue.

Dating back to 1,000 years ago, China was already a major country in sea navigation. China was surely the first country that found, exploited and governed the Nansha Islands.

During World War II, Japan invaded and occupied the Nansha Islands. After WWII, the Chinese government overtly recovered the Nansha Islands according to law based on a series of international conventions and agreements including the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation.

The international community had never raised doubts about China’s sovereignty over the Nansha Islands until 1960s, and the countries with a high voice today acknowledged or tacitly approved that the Nansha Islands are China’s territory by the means of diplomatic notes or publicly published maps. Afterwards, for the well-known domestic reasons of China and the statement that oil has been discovered under the South China Sea, some countries began to encroach and invade China’s islands and reefs. Actually, China is the biggest victim on the South China Sea issue.

Even so, the Chinese government has always adhered to peaceful settlement of the South China Sea issue and advocated seeking for a proper solution through negotiations and consultations with the parties directly related to the issue on the basis of respecting historical facts and in accordance with the International Law, which is also the stipulation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) signed between China and the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This position will not change in the future.

Since the 1970s, some countries have begun to engage in massive construction of various facilities including a large number of military installations on invaded islands and reefs of China. On the other hand, the necessary construction taken by China, which did not begin until recently, is mainly aimed at improving the working and living conditions of the personnel stationed on the islands and reefs. Besides, as a major country, China needs to provide the international community with public products and benefit the international community through bringing into play civil functions of these facilities. The necessary construction of China on its own islands and reefs is totally different in nature from expansion of facilities by some invasive countries on China’s islands and reefs.

Some people have their concerns about the freedom of navigation in South China Sea. In facts, China also has a stake in the freedom of navigation in this area. The majority of Chinese cargo are shipped through the South China Sea, so freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is equally important to China. China always maintains that countries enjoy freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea in accordance with the international law.

The situation remains positive and encouraging. Through friendly consultations, China and ASEAN countries have developed a full set of mechanisms to properly handle the South China Sea issue. First, the issue shall be resolved through a dual-track approach, which means specific disputes should be addressed peacefully by parties directly concerned through consultation and negotiation. This is stipulated in Article 4 of the DOC, and it is also a joint commitment by China and the 10 ASEAN countries. Second, the parties shall implement the DOC in good faith and work toward a Code of Conduct (COC) through consultation. Third, China has taken the initiative to propose the formulation of "preventive measures on managing perils at sea". On this new platform, various parties may put forward proposals and ideas for discussion. If consensus is reached, action may follow.

China firmly upholds the defense policy that is defensive in nature and opposes actions of militarization taken by any country in the South China Sea that are detrimental to security, stability and mutual trust. The Chinese side does not pursue to militarize the South China Sea. It makes no sense to relate construction on islands and reefs of the Nansha Islands to militarization. Peace and stability of the South China Sea is what all relevant countries should work for. It also requires joint efforts by countries in and outside the region to prevent the South China Sea from being militarized.

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