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China committed to resolve South China sea issue, never seek to build ‘Maritime Empire’

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KUALA LUMPUR : China is always committed to the dual-track approach in the South China Sea issue and upholding the principle that all countries are equal in seeking to resolve the disputes peacefully through negotiation and consultation with all countries concerned, said the Chinese Embassy in Malaysia in a statement Monday.

A spokesperson from the Embassy, in rebutting a statement by the United State (US) Department of State, said China sticks to the principle of mutual respect and, together with ASEAN countries, are addressing the South China Sea issue based on respecting historical facts and international laws, peace and stability in the disputed waters.

“China has always pursued a good-neighbourly foreign policy and insists that all countries, big or small, rich or poor, strong or weak, should be all equal. With the joint efforts of China and ASEAN countries, the situation in the South China Sea has been improving overall,” he said in the statement.

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On July 13, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a statement said Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them.

“Beijing uses intimidation to undermine the sovereign rights of Southeast Asian coastal states in the South China Sea, bully them out of offshore resources, assert unilateral dominion, and replace international law with “might makes right”,” Pompeo had said.

On US’s allegation that China is asserting its maritime claims, the spokesperson said China confines its oil and gas development and fishing activities in the South China Sea strictly within the waters under China’s jurisdiction, in accordance with relevant international laws including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and China’s domestic legislations.

He added that China also exercised great restraint over oil and gas development in the disputed waters in the South China Sea and none of the working drilling oil rigs in the disputed waters in the South China Sea is China’s.

“China never stir up trouble, but when our maritime rights are infringed, we have to make necessary reactions, even so the reactions are all moderate. We never seek to build ‘maritime empire’ in the South China Sea,” he said.

He said on contrary, a certain country has been constantly flexing its muscles in the South China Sea by sending advanced warships and fighter planes to the region and conducted excessive military drills.

“In the guise of ‘freedom of navigation’, this country has frequently approached and illegally entered waters and airspace of China near the relevant reefs in South China Sea, threatening the sovereignty and security of China.

“It is quite clear who is seeking to build a ‘maritime empire’ and playing power politics in the South China Sea,”  he said.

In reference to the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal decision which sided the Philippines, the spokesperson from the Embassy said the arbitral tribunal itself was established on an unlawful basis and that China does not accept and recognise that.

“We (with) regard to the South China Sea arbitration and the so called Awards, China has made clear its position on many occasions. No matter how the relevant disputes are deliberately packaged as mere issues concerning the interpretation and application of the Convention, the essence of the subject-matter of the arbitration is the territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation.

“Territorial issues are not subject to the Convention and the maritime delimitation disputes have been excluded from the UNCLOS’ compulsory dispute settlement procedures by China’s 2006 Declaration,” he said.

The spokesperson reiterated that China has been committed to addressing the differences through friendly negotiations and consultations with related parties including Malaysia, so as to maintain the peace and stability in the South China Sea.

He said that although both China and Malaysia hold different positions and have overlapping claims in relevant waters, the governments of both sides have handled the disputes and managed the differences through dialogues and consultations, with good will and sincerity.

He said China is always ready to cooperate with Malaysia to deepen their mutual trust and to continue to properly settle the relevant issues through bilateral friendly consultations.

“It is our expectation that both sides can work together to fully implement the DoC (Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea) and push forward the consultation on CoC (Code of Conduct in the South China Sea), so as to safeguard the peace and stability over the South China Sea.

“Before the dispute are settled, China will continue to work with relevant parties including Malaysia to put aside differences, promote common development on oil and gas resources and advance the cooperation on maritime environment protection and fishing resources preservation, in order to build the South China Sea into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation,” he said.

— BERNAMA