On June 17, 2016, The West Australian published a signed article titled 'China Seeks Peaceful Solution to Sea Dispute' by Chinese Ambassador to Australia CHENG Jingye. The full text is as follows:
China Seeks Peaceful Solution to Sea Dispute
The issue of the South China Sea has attracted a lot of recent attention. Though this is a complicated issue concerning territorial sovereignty, China remains committed to a negotiated solution.
China's indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters has long been established. As the first to discover the islands, China has exercised sovereign jurisdiction over them through various means. During World War II, Japan illegally seized some parts of the islands. After the war, China recovered those islands in accordance with the 1943 Cairo Declaration and the 1945 Potsdam Proclamation. For several decades afterwards, it was widely acknowledged by the international community that the South China Sea islands belong to China.
The root cause of South China Sea disputes originated in the 1970s when some countries around the South China Sea began to occupy illegally part of China's Nansha islands and reefs. In the interests of peace and stability in the region, China has exercised the utmost restraint.
While adhering to its position of upholding sovereignty over the islands, China put forward the proposal of "shelving differences and engaging in common development". China has had active discussions with ASEAN countries for an effective way to manage the disputes.
With concerted efforts, China and the 10 ASEAN countries signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in 2002. In the DOC, all relevant parties undertook to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means through friendly consultations and negotiations by countries directly concerned.
In September 2013, China and ASEAN countries launched consultations for a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC), and they have made significant progress. During the recent Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting, China and ASEAN countries, by reaffirming their commitment to a full, effective and comprehensive implementation of the DOC, agreed to advance the process of COC consultations with a view to reaching an early conclusion based on consensus. It is China's consistent policy to settle territorial and maritime entitlement disputes through negotiations and consultations. In this spirit, China has solved boundary issues with 12 out of its 14 land neighbors in the past decades, with about 20,000 kilometres of borderlines delineated.
In addition, China and Vietnam have set the maritime boundary in the Beibu Gulf. These remarkable achievements fully demonstrate that bilateral negotiations and consultations are an effective means to solve territorial disputes. The Chinese Government will continue to adopt this approach.
In the mid-1990s, China and the Philippines reached a clear agreement on settling their disputes in the South China Sea through negotiation. This has been reaffirmed in many other bilateral documents since then, including the joint statement the two countries issued in September 2011.
However, in total disregard of this agreement, the Philippines unilaterally initiated arbitration against China on the South China Sea dispute in early 2013. Such a move again goes against the provisions of the DOC. China has every right not to accept or participate in the arbitration. In spite of all this, the door of dialogue is always open. China is committed to resolving the disputes through negotiation with the Philippines.
The South China Sea is an important shipping lane. As the largest country around the South China Sea and the world's biggest trading nation in goods, China has a high stake in the South China Sea with 80 per cent of its total trade traversing the area. Peace and stability in the South China Sea are critical to China. It stands ready to work with other parties concerned to safeguard freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea which all countries are entitled to in accordance with international law.
On the other hand, China remains firmly opposed to any provocative acts to ratchet up tension under the cover of navigation freedom.