China respects pace and harmony in the region: Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi
By Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi clarified his country stance on South Sea issue at ASEAN Regional Forum Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. China’s sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters is supported by ample historical and legal evidence he added. Yet given the complexity of the South China Sea issue, China has always called for shelving disputes and seeking joint development he further explained. He stated that China and ASEAN countries had candid discussions and reached broad consensus on the South China Sea issue 20 years ago and signed the declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in Phnom Penh ten years ago. He briefed that an important principle of the DOC is to let sovereign states directly concerned resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means through friendly consultations and negotiations. Parties agreed to work, on the basis of consensus, towards the eventual formulation of a code of conduct in the South China Sea (COC).
He was of the opinion that China was open to launching discussions on COC on the basis of full compliance with the DOC by all parties. China hopes that all parties will do more to enhance mutual trust, promote cooperation, and create necessary conditions for the formulation of COC he elaborated.
Yang said that China is a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and places importance on upholding the principles and purposes of the Convention. According to him, the Convention states at the very outset the desirability of “establishing, with due regard for the sovereignty of all States, a legal order for the seas and oceans”. He pointed out that countries concerned should first resolve their territorial disputes over the Nansha Islands and, on that basis, proceed to resolve the issue of maritime delimitation in the South China Sea in accordance with international law, the UNCLOS included.
The foreign minister said that the South China Sea is an important shipping route. China is a big trading nation, and 60% of China’s external trade goes through the South China Sea he added. He upholds that China attaches great importance to the freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea. Last November, China and Indonesia co-hosted in China the Workshop on Maintaining Freedom and Safety of Navigation in the South China Sea. He explained that China has taken an active part in the Cooperative Mechanism in the Straits of Malacca and the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia and set up the Maritime Consultation Mechanism with ASEAN countries. He assures that China will continue to work closely with the littoral countries to ensure smooth sea lanes in the South China Sea. Countries in the region should make better use of the convenience brought about by the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea to strengthen connectivity and facilitate trade and mutually beneficial cooperation between regional countries and countries outside the region he added.