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Friday, June 3, 2016

How to Bridge the Divide Over the South China Sea

How to Bridge the Divide Over the South China Sea

 The author is the ambassador of China to the United States

June 1, 2016 12:30 PM EDT
The differences between China and the U.S. over the South China Sea issue have become a matter of concern and even anxiety. But some of the perceptions in the U.S. and elsewhere about China’s policy and intentions in the area are misplaced. A pressing task is to understand the facts and China’s intentions correctly so as to avoid real danger and consequences as a result of misinterpretation and miscalculation.
The issues in the South China Sea revolve around territorial and maritime jurisdiction. China believes it is doing nothing more than maintaining and defending legitimate territorial claims and maritime rights. Reclamation and construction works have taken place on islands and reefs that have long been under China’s control, and many of the facilities are for civilian purposes and public good, such as navigation and rescue services, emergency relief, scientific research, and environmental protection. There are limited defense facilities, but they do not represent a “militarization” of the area. We believe that recent statements and military deployments by the U.S. have had the effect of escalating tension in the region and, if not curbed, risk the very militarization we all wish to avoid.
Some people have called on China to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and to agree to international arbitration, which was initiated by the Philippines. But these same people are denying China’s rights under the convention. Our view is that the convention does not cover sovereignty and territorial issues -- yet the very subject of the arbitration is territorial sovereignty. China will therefore neither participate nor accept the arbitration, for we maintain that the tribunal has no jurisdiction in this realm. Besides, it is ironic that the U.S. seeks to use against us a United Nations convention that it itself has refused to ratify.

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