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China is staunch force for peace, stability in South China Sea: ambassador

Editor: Zhang Pengfei 丨Xinhua

05-21-2016 13:06 BJT

Full coverage: South China Sea Is Indisputable Part of China

LONDON, May 20 (Xinhua) -- China is committed to peace and stability in the South China Sea, and desires to solve disputes peacefully through negotiation, Chinese Ambassador to Britain Liu Xiaoming said Friday.

In a speech at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, Liu said China has long exercised "a high-level of self-restraint and forbearance" regarding the territorial disputes in the region.

"We have always approached the disputes in a constructive and responsible manner. If China had not maintained self-restraint, the South China Sea would not be what it is today," he told his audience.

Expounding on China's position and policy, Liu said that the islands and reefs in the South China Sea have belonged to China since ancient times.

China was the first to discover the islands in the South China Sea, the first to name the islands, the first to exercise administrative jurisdiction in the South China Sea, and also the first to develop the islands, he said.

"The aforementioned four 'Firsts' are based on substantial and concrete historical evidence. They testify to the fact that the islands of the South China Sea have long been Chinese territory," added the ambassador.

One actor in the region, the Philippines, has approached the issue through unilaterally arbitration, something China rejects.

"China's rejection of the arbitration is an act of exercising its legitimate rights empowered by international law."

China and the Philippines reached a number of bilateral agreements on resolving disputes, according to the diplomat.

In the Declaration of Conduct reached between China and the Philippines and other ASEAN countries, it is clearly stipulated that "the parties concerned undertake to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means," he stressed.

"'Pacta sunt servanda' is a basic rule in international relations. This is the bottom line of morality that every country must strictly observe. To put it simply, the Philippines has reneged on its words and deeds," Liu noted.

He pointed out that The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) stipulates that States Parties have the right to settle a dispute by any peaceful means of their own choice.

"The aforementioned arbitration was unilaterally forced by the Philippines, who did not seek consent from China. This violates China's legitimate rights under the international law," he said.

The 15 submissions made by the Philippines concern territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation, Liu said, noting that "the UNCLOS has no jurisdiction over issues related to sovereignty."

"As for maritime delimitation, China made a declaration in 2006 in accordance with Article 298 of the UNCLOS. This made it very clear China would exclude disputes on maritime delimitation from compulsory arbitration, so China has exercised its legitimate rights conferred by the UNCLOS. China's action complies with international law," he elaborated.

"It should be noted that over 30 other countries...have made similar declarations on the same principle of exclusion. These declarations have constituted an inseparable part of the UNCLOS," he continued.

Regarding claims that China is "militarizing" the South China Sea, the ambassador said more than half of the U.S.'s military force is deployed in Asia-Pacific, and it frequently flexes its military muscles together with its allies in the region.

"This is shown with the conduct of highly-targeted military drills. Then there are the military jets and warships on close-in reconnaissance in the nearby waters and air space of China's islands and reefs," he explained.

"It is these provocative and hostile actions that have raised the tension in the South China Sea. These acts have sent the wrong signal to the Philippines and others who have recklessly deployed military facilities on their illegally occupied islands," said the envoy.

He urged the United States to "stop its dangerous provocations that challenge China's sovereignty and security" and "take concrete steps to facilitate peace and stability in the region."

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