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Acting Consul General Mr. Wang Yong refutes an editorial by Chicago Tribune on the arbitration of South China Sea
2016/07/15

On July 13, in response to an editorial by Chicago Tribune claiming that China’s efforts lead to escalation of tensions in the South China Sea and making unwarranted charges against China’s non-acceptance of the so-called ruling of the arbitration, Acting Consul General Wang Yong wrote a letter of refutation to the Tribune’s Commentary Editor. The full text of the article reads as follows:

The Tribune’s editorial with the title of “Stomping on China's sand castles” dated July 12 claimed that “China's island-building gambit escalated tensions” . I wish to point out that the editorial is saturated with prejudice, the accusation doesn’t hold water. Listen to Both sides and you will be enlightened , heed only one side and you will be benighted. What has intensified tensions in the region then?

The Nansha Islands and Reefs in the arbitration case are the sovereignty properties of China since ancient times. This sovereignty had not been challenged until the 1970s when more and more Chinese islands and reefs were illegally occupied by others. History has recorded the international community's universal recognition of China's sovereignty over the Nansha Islands. China's sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands was also affirmed in the authoritative maps and books published in the U.S., such as The Columbia Lippincott Gazetteer of the World of 1961, Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations of 1963, and Encyclopedia of World Administration Division of 1971.

Since the 1970s, some countries have tried to lay claim on the natural resources in the South China Sea. It was then that some nations began to make territorial claims. Philippines sent troops and illegally occupied some of the islands. That is how the disputes started. Up till today, Philippines has occupied eight of them. Tensions started to rise about five or six years ago, about the same time when we began to hear about "pivot to Asia". In the last few years, instigated by countries outside of this region, the Philippines recklessly deployed military facilities on their illegally occupied islands, unilaterally initiated this illegal arbitration. The region has witnessed disputes intensified, relations strained and confidence weakened. These issues have taken so much time and energy at so many regional and international fora, and the time and energy should have been spent on promoting cooperation.

Some might put the blame on China's recent reclamation activities. But the fact is that China is the last among the six parties mentioned in the editorial to do so, and we are doing so only on the islands and reefs under our own control - islands and reefs where we have people stationed there. We are not trying to take back the islands and reefs that are illegally occupied by others. I must stress that China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea are not new claims. These, including the dotted line, have been formed in the long course of history, and have been upheld by the successive Chinese governments. Expansionism refers to laying claims to land outside one's own territory. China has never done anything like that, so such doubts or accusations are unwarranted.

The editorial also mentioned the UNCLOS, which the U.S. refused to join until today, and the Freedom of Navigation Operations by the U.S. Navy. In fact, Freedom of Navigation Operations by the U.S. were originally designed as a counter-measure to the provisions of the UNCLOS. Many contracting parties believe that distinctions should be made between freedom of navigation of commercial and civilian vessels, and freedom of navigation of military vessels.

China firmly stands for freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, because, as the editorial rightly stated, these sea lanes are the economic life lines for China and many countries in the region. We will do everything possible to safeguard the unimpeded flow of commerce and stop any attempt to destabilize the region. As a matter of fact, freedom of navigation for commercial vessels has never been a problem in the South China Sea.

The Editorial proclaimed that the U.S. Navy might sail through the disputed neighborhood more frequently. Such an assembly of aircraft carriers, airplanes and sophisticated weapons could pose a real threat to the freedom of navigation of commercial and civilian vessels. Such a concentration of fire-power would be a source of concern any where in the world. That is exactly what we should worry for.

Last by not least, I would like to say, this temporary tribunal, unjust and highly controversial, does not stand for international law, the rule of law or equity and justice in the world. more and more countries in the world as well as people with vision have expressed concerns and doubt about the case, especially legal experts worldwide. Over 60 countries have publicly expressed their understanding and support for China’s position. These are voices of justice that the international community should well listen to.

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