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Ma Zhaoxu: Vietnam has no legitimate claim to Xisha islands

On June 13, 2014, Australia's biggest-selling national newspaper The Australian published a signed article titled "Vietnam has no legitimate claim to Xisha Islands" by Chinese ambassador MA Zhaoxu. The full text is as follows:

Vietnam has been sending myriad ships to disrupt a perfectly legal Chinese oil-drilling operation in the contiguous zone of China's Xisha Islands.

Yet Vietnam is playing the role of the "weak" country, misleading public opinion by claiming the drilling area is located in the Vietnamese exclusive economic zone and accusing China of breaching the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

It is important to understand that the Chinese operation is only 17 nautical miles away from both Zhongjian Island in China's Xisha Islands and the baseline of the territorial waters of Xisha Islands as a whole. It is 133 to 156 nautical miles away from the coast of the Vietnamese mainland.

The Chinese company has been conducting explorations in related waters without impediment for the past 10 years. The current drilling operation is simply a continuation of routine operations and falls well within China's sovereignty and jurisdiction.

Yet, since May 2, Vietnam has sent a large number of vessels, some armed, to the oil-drilling area, illegally and forcefully ­disrupting operations and ramming Chinese government ships on escort.

Vietnam has also dropped obstacles such as fishing nets and floating objects in the water to block the main shipping lanes, posing threats to the freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea. Such actions are serious infringements upon China's sovereignty and jurisdiction and put lives in danger.

The "spin" Vietnam has presented to the international community is that Chinese armed vessels rammed Vietnamese fishing boats. This is untrue. Vietnam has violated international law, including the Charter of the UN, the UNCLOS and other relevant international conventions for safety of maritime navigation.

At home, Vietnam condoned anti-China demonstrations including looting and arson against companies belonging to China and several other countries. Four Chinese nationals were killed and more than 300 injured.

In the face of such provocation China has exercised great restraint and, despite calling on Vietnam at all levels, asking it to stop the illegal disruption, it goes on unabated.

China has an unshakable legal basis for the sovereignty of the Xisha Islands, having been the first to discover, develop, exploit and exercise jurisdiction over the archipelago.

As far back as the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1126 AD), the Chinese government had jurisdiction over the islands and sent naval forces to patrol the waters there.

Prior to 1974, no Vietnamese government had challenged China's sovereignty. In fact, Vietnam had officially recognised them as part of Chinese territory since ancient times in its government statements and notes.

The Vietnamese government's claim to the islands is a violation of the principles of international law and the basic norms governing international relations.

As the largest developing country in the world, China wants peace and stability in the region. It does not want turbulence.

China and Vietnam are neighbours. A sound bilateral relationship is in the interest of both peoples.

In 2000 the two governments signed the agreement on the demarcation of the territorial water, the EEZ and the continental shelf in the Beibu Gulf after successful negotiation.

It is true that the waters between China's Xisha Islands and the coast of the Vietnamese mainland are yet to be delimited. However, no matter which principle is applied these waters concerned will never become Vietnam's part of EEZ and continental shelf.

China really hopes that Vietnam will respect China's sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction, immediately stop all forms of disruption and return the sea to peace.

We are ready to work together with Vietnam for the proper settlement of the current situation.

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