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Backgrounder: China has indisputable sovereignty over South China Sea islands

Editor: Wang Xuemeng 丨Xinhua

05-31-2016 15:01 BJT

Full coverage: South China Sea is Indisputable Part of China

BEIJING, April 29 (Xinhua) -- The Philippines, distorting and partially applying the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), attempts to challenge China's sovereignty over the Nansha Islands.

In its unilaterally-initiated arbitration, the Philippines argues that low-tide elevations and submerged reefs are part of the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, a claim that totally runs contrary to historical fact, reality and international law.

First of all, the Nansha Islands have been inherent Chinese territory since ancient times.

Chinese activities in the South China Sea date back to 2000 years ago.

China was the first country to discover, name and exploit the resources of the South China Sea islands. China was also the first country that exercised and has continuously exercised sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the islands.

In 1946, the Chinese government resumed exercise of sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and reefs from foreign powers that had occupied them, and re-erected a monument of sovereignty on the main island.

In 1947, China made public the old and new name table of the South China Sea islands and the "South Sea Islands Location Map," declaring China's territorial and maritime demarcation.

Secondly, the Philippines intentionally disregards the integrity of the Nansha Islands as a geographic and territorial unit, and divides the islands into isolated units instead.

Thirdly, the provisions concerning exclusive economic zones and the continental shelf jurisdiction within the UNCLOS grant coastal states broad rights to facilitate development, exploration and research in related waters, but not the right to undermine another country's sovereignty.

When China regained its sovereignty over the Nansha Islands, the continental shelf provision was in the process of being drawn up; therefore, the establishment of China's sovereignty over the islands occurred a lot earlier than the forming of the continental shelf delimitation.

Last but not least, there is no definite legal principle regarding the appropriation of low-tide elevations, where the Philippines claimed that such areas should not be appropriated.

So far, the rulings of the International Court of Justice about the appropriation issue have been inconsistent and self-contradictory.

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