While a pandemic is still raging domestically within the United States, the U.S. government is busy making waves in the South China Sea. First, an aircraft carrier shows off its strength; then the secretary of state spoke out, unjustifiably accusing China of “completely unlawful” acts. The statement ignores historical facts, is filled with distortions of international law and completely goes against the public commitment of the U.S. government to take no position on the issue of sovereignty in the South China Sea. This kind of conduct, with “fist waving” followed by “false arguments,” is consistent with the usual style of the U.S. of using military domination to build momentum for overbearing diplomacy.
The U.S. showing off its military might and sowing discord in the South China Sea follows the main logic of U.S. diplomacy in recent years, particularly since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been driven by a handful of anti-Chinese politicians to oppose China at every opportunity. It is a continuation of the old U.S. routine of showing military might, wagging its tongue publicly, secretly sowing discord, creating diplomatic friction and inciting regional rivalries over the South China Sea. However, in the face of China’s steadfast determination to safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests, as well as the broad consensus and positive tendency of countries in the region to jointly maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea, this sort of military and diplomatic “long-arm meddling” is doomed to failure.
China has indisputable sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and surrounding waters. The Chinese people have been active in the South China Sea for more than 2,000 years. China was the first to discover, name, develop and use the islands and surrounding sea areas in the South China Sea, and the first to exercise sovereignty and jurisdiction in a sustained, peaceful and effective way. China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea have developed over a long period of history, have an ample historical and legal basis, have been asserted by successive Chinese governments and are consistent with international law, including the United Nations Charter and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. China is unwavering in its determination to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and its maritime rights and interests; this will not be changed by the baseless allegations of individual countries.
The South China Sea issue should be resolved peacefully by the relevant direct parties in the region through dialogue and consultation. After the farce of the so-called South China Sea Arbitration, some countries, especially major powers outside the region, have been acting like backseat drivers on the South China Sea issue. However, China is committed to working with the countries that are directly concerned on the basis of respect for historical facts and international law, to settling disputes through negotiation and consultation and to working with the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to stabilize the situation in the South China Sea. The current situation in the South China Sea is generally peaceful and stable and continues to improve. China and the ASEAN countries not only abide by the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, but negotiations on a more binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea are intensifying to jointly maintain peace, stability and freedom of navigation. Positive progress has been made in the relevant consultations. It has been proven repeatedly that China and the countries concerned are fully capable of handling their differences, building the South China Sea into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation and maintaining calm, stability and long-term peace and security in the region.
As a foreign power with no jurisdiction, the U.S. has no say in the South China Sea issue. The U.S. keeps on saying that it will not take a stand on disputed issues, but in reality, encourages other claimant countries in the South China Sea to intensify their territorial disputes with China and uses various means to cause trouble and provoke disagreements. Under the pretext of maintaining stability in the South China Sea and freedom of navigation, the U.S. sent military ships and aircraft in a reckless provocation, conducted high-frequency, close-proximity reconnaissance of the Chinese side and held highly targeted military exercises yet labels China as “militarized.” The United States itself has not ratified UNCLOS, but is busy using the convention to defend the rights of other countries. A country that has repeatedly withdrawn from groups and broken agreements in the international community, and used or abandoned international law as it sees fit, has now become the “champion” of international law. Mark Valencia, a leading U.S. maritime policy expert, has pointed out that the U.S. is trying to create the false impression that Southeast Asia welcomes the presence of the U.S. military in the South China Sea, but the fact is that ASEAN countries are wary of U.S. military involvement.
The United States, out of self-interest, for fear there is no disorder in the South China Sea, does everything possible to stir up trouble there. Attempts to drive a wedge between the countries in the region are doomed to be unpopular. The development and prosperity of East Asia cannot be separated from the peace and stability of the South China Sea. Countries in the region have already reached an important consensus on this and will not easily fall into the U.S. trap. Faced with provocation by the U.S., the Chinese people will not waver in their determination to safeguard national sovereignty and security and maintain regional peace and security. The United States is urged to respect the aspirations and efforts of countries in the region to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea, to face up to China’s will and determination to defend its national interests and to stop being a troublemaker and a wrecker of regional peace and stability as soon as possible.