MFA Spokesperson: China is firmly opposed to the wrong act by the US side on the South China Sea related issues

On July 12, 2021, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian held a regular press conference. A reporter asked, on July 12 Beijing time, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken released a press statement on the fifth anniversary of the so-called arbitral tribunal ruling on the South China Sea. He claims that the rules-based maritime order is under great threat in the South China Sea and accuses China of continuing to "coerce and intimidate Southeast Asian coastal states", threatening freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. He said that the arbitral tribunal delivered a decision firmly rejecting the China's expansive South China Sea maritime claims as having no basis in international law, adding that China and the Philippines, "pursuant to their treaty obligations under the Law of the Sea Convention, are legally bound to comply with this decision". He also reaffirms that an armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the South China Sea would invoke US mutual defense commitments under the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty. He calls on China to abide by its obligations under international law, cease provocative behavior, and take steps to reassure the international community that it is committed to the rules-based maritime order. Does China have any comment on this?

Zhao Lijian replied that the US statement disregards the historical merits and objective facts of the South China Sea issue, violates and distorts international law, and breaks the US government's long-held public commitment of not taking a position on the South China Sea sovereignty issue. It deliberately stokes disputes on territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, sows discord among regional countries and undermines regional peace and stability. This is extremely irresponsible. China is strongly dissatisfied with and firmly opposed to the wrong act by the US side. I want to stress the following points:

First, China's sovereignty, rights and interests in the South China Sea have been formed in the course of a long history. They are supported by abundant historical and legal basis and upheld by the Chinese government all along. No country raised any objection to this position until 1970s. The US accusation that our maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea have no basis in international law totally runs counter to facts.

Second, the South China Sea arbitration violated the principle of state consent and the arbitral tribunal exercised its jurisdiction ultra vires and rendered an award in disregard of law. The arbitration has major fallacies in fact-finding and application of law and violates UNCLOS and international law. The award of the arbitration is illegal, null and void. It is nothing more than a piece of waste paper. China does not accept or participate in the arbitration, nor does it accept or recognize the award. China's sovereignty and rights and interests over the South China Sea are not affected at all by the arbitration and China does not accept any claim or act based on it. Anyone with a discerning eye can easily see that the arbitration is a political farce which is initiated and manipulated by the US to smear and suppress China. The political agenda of the US to hype up the South China Sea issue by taking advantage of the 5th anniversary of the illegal award can't be more obvious.

Third, China always advocates friendly negotiations and consultations to settle the South China Sea issue, treats our South China Sea neighbors as equals and exercises maximum restraint when safeguarding our sovereignty, rights and interests in the South China Sea. On the opposite, the US willfully sends large-scale advanced vessels and aircraft to the South China Sea for military reconnaissance and drills and illegally intruded into China's territorial waters and space and water and air space adjacent to islands and reefs. Since the beginning of this year, the US side conducted close-in reconnaissance for nearly 2,000 times and over 20 large-scale military drills on the sea. What's more, the US abuses bilateral military agreements that smack of the Cold War to threat to use force on China. This exposes its power politics logic and hegemonic practices. It is self-evident who is seeking coercion and intimidation and threatening freedom and security of navigation.

Fourth, China firmly upholds and practices international rule of law. As an original contracting party of UNCLOS, China always correctly understands and earnestly implements the Convention, and uphold its authority and integrity with concrete actions. The US poses as a defender of international law and keeps referring to the Convention and making an issue out of it. Why doesn't it accede to the Convention first? It claims to uphold "rules-based international order", but refuses to execute the judgement and advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice and the resolution of UN General Assembly. It is selective in applying international law and international order. The world's people see clearly the US' pragmatism, egoism and double standards.

Fifth, the South China Sea is one of the busiest sea lanes in the world and the lifeline of China's maritime trade. Some 30% of global trade in goods and each year about 100,000 merchant vessels transit through the South China Sea. Under the joint efforts of countries in the region including China, passage through the South China sea has been smooth and safe for a period of time, and not a single vessel has ever reported that it's navigation is hindered or safety threatened in the South China Sea. The US allegation of "freedom of navigation" in the South China Sea threatened is simply untenable.

Sixth, the South China Sea is the shared home for the countries in the region. It should not be a hunting field for the US to seek geopolitical self-interests. China and countries concerned have effectively managed differences through dialogue and consultation and continuously promoted practical cooperation. China and ASEAN countries fully and effectively implement the DOC and actively promote consultations on the "Code of Conduct in the South China Sea" with major progress. The US and other countries outside the region should respect the regional countries' efforts in maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea. China urges the US to stop abusing international law, stop the use of force or the threat of force and stop making provocations in the South China Sea. It should abide by international law underpinned by the UN Charter, and respect China's sovereignty and rights and interests in the South China Sea instead of going further down the wrong path. China will continue to firmly defend its sovereignty, rights, interests and security in accordance with law, firmly protect the friendly, cooperative relations with regional countries, and firmly safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea.

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