On 13 July 2016, the State Council Information Office (SCIO) held a press conference on the white paper titled China Adheres to the Position of Settling Through Negotiation the Relevant Disputes Between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea hosted by Vice Minister and Spokesperson of SCIO Guo Weimin. Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin attended the press conference, briefed the audience on the white paper and took questions from the press.
Guo Weimin: Ladies and gentlemen, friends from the press, good morning. Welcome to today's press conference.
On the 12th of July, the so-called Arbitral Tribunal for the South China Sea arbitration unilaterally initiated by the Philippines issued its award. Chinese leaders issued remarks to state Chinese government's firm position, the Chinese government issued the Statement on China's Territorial Sovereignty and Maritime Rights and Interests in the South China Sea, and China's Foreign Ministry issued the Statement on the Award of the Arbitral Tribunal in the South China Sea Arbitration Established at the Request of the Republic of the Philippines to reiterate China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea, pointing out that the award is null and void and has no binding force and China does not accept or recognize the award. The Chinese government's position won the firm and wide support of the Chinese public and the international community.
Today, the State Council Information Office issues the white paper titled China Adheres to the Position of Settling Through Negotiation the Relevant Disputes Between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea to fully set forth Chinese government's consistent position and policy on the disputes between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea and the South China Sea issue. Today, we have invited Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin to join us in this briefing and to answer your questions.
Before that, let me give a brief introduction to the white paper. The white paper has five main parts.
First, Nanhai Zhudao are China's inherent territory. It emphasizes that China's sovereignty over Nanhai Zhudao is established in the course of history and China has always been resolute in upholding its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea. China's sovereignty over Nanhai Zhudao is widely acknowledged in the international community.
The second part is about the origin of the relevant disputes between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea. It emphasizes that it is the Philippines' invasion and illegal occupation that caused disputes with China and the Philippines' territorial claim on some islands and reefs of Nansha Qundao has no basis. It points out that it is the development of the international law of the sea that gave rise to the dispute between China and the Philippines over maritime delimitation.
The third part is that China and the Philippines have reached consensus on settling their relevant disputes in the South China Sea, stressing that it is the consensus and commitment of China and the Philippines to settle through negotiation their relevant disputes and it is the consensus of China and the Philippines to properly manage relevant disputes in the South China Sea.
The fourth part is that the Philippines has repeatedly taken moves that complicate the relevant disputes. It points out that the Philippines attempts to expand its occupation of some islands and reefs of China's Nansha Qundao, has increasingly intensified its infringement of China's rights on the sea, and has territorial pretensions on China's Huangyan Dao and the Philippines' unilateral initiation of the arbitration is an act of bad faith.
The fifth part is China's policy on the South China Sea issue, elaborating on China's position and policy on the territorial issues concerning Nansha Qundao, maritime delimitation in the South China Sea, ways and means of dispute settlement, management of differences and practical maritime cooperation in the South China Sea, freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea, and jointly upholding peace and stability in the South China Sea.
The white paper aims to set the record straight regarding the relevant disputes between China and the Philippines and reiterates China's consistent position and policy, to get to the root of the issue and to clear the wrong perceptions. The white paper contains more than 20, 000 Chinese characters and will be published in multiple languages including Chinese, English, Russian, French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Arabic and Portuguese. The Chinese version and the foreign language versions have been published by the People's Publishing House and the Foreign Languages Press and will be for sale at Xinhua bookstores across the country.
I wish to add that the Chinese people have been conducting activities in the South China Sea for over 2,000 years. The Chinese people say that the South China Sea has been left to us by our ancestors. The arbitration case unilaterally initiated by the Philippines and the illegal arbitration by the ad hoc tribunal is a political farce carefully orchestrated under the legal pretext. The so-called award is illegal, null and void, and cannot change the fact that Nanhai Zhudao are China's inherent territory and can not deny China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea. This farce will not cause waves in the South China Sea, a sea that has been passed down to us by our ancestors. China's resolve and will to uphold our sovereignty and maritime rights and interests is as firm as ever.
Now, Mr. Vice Foreign Minister, please.
Liu Zhenmin: Dear friends from the press, welcome to today's press conference on the white paper. Vice Minister Guo has just given you a brief introduction to the white paper. The release of the white paper is an important step to respond to the arbitration case initiated by the Philippines. It has five parts as Mr. Guo noted. Now I wish to give you a full review of theses five parts.
The first part is that Nanhai Zhudao are China's inherent territory. The activities of the Chinese people in the South China Sea date back to over 2,000 years ago. China is the first to have discovered and named, and explored and exploited Nanhai Zhudao and the South China Sea, and the first to have continuously, peacefully and effectively exercised sovereignty and jurisdiction over Nanhai Zhudao. China's sovereignty over Nanhai Zhudao and the relevant rights and interests in the South China Sea have been established in the long course of history.
During its war of aggression against China, Japan invaded and illegally occupied Nanhai Zhudao. After the end of World War II, the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation as well as a series of post-war international documents stipulated that all territories Japan had stolen should be returned to China. Accordingly, after World War II, China recovered Taiwan, Penghu Islands, Xisha Qundao and Nansha Qundao which belong to China in the first place. After the resumption of the exercise of sovereignty over Nanhai Zhudao, China drew up the relevant map with the dotted line, and published the map to the world in 1948. So the dotted line has been there since 1948.
Since its founding, the People's Republic of China has further upheld its sovereignty over Nanhai Zhudao and the relevant rights and interests in the South China Sea. China has never stopped patrolling Nanhai Zhudao and relevant waters as well as law enforcement, resource development and scientific survey activities there. Nanhai Zhudao have been widely recognized as a part of China's territory by the international community after World War II, which constitutes an integral part of post-war territorial arrangement and international order. Encyclopedias, yearbooks and maps published in many countries after the war all mark the Nansha Qundao as Chinese territory.
The second part is about the core of the relevant disputes between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea which lies in the territorial issue caused by the Philippines' invasion and illegal occupation of some islands and reefs of China's Nansha Qundao. Starting from the 1970s, the Philippines has invaded and illegally occupied by force some islands and reefs of China's Nansha Qundao and raised illegal territorial claims. The Philippines has concocted a host of excuses to cover up its invasion and illegal occupation of some islands and reefs of China's Nansha Qundao in order to pursue its ambition for territorial pretensions. These claims of the Philippines have no basis whatsoever in either history or international law and cannot change the basic fact that the Nansha Qundao are Chinese territory.
In addition, the emergence and development of the new regime of the law of the sea has given rise to dispute between China and the Philippines over maritime delimitation in certain areas of the South China Sea which needs to be resolved through negotiation.
The third part is to say that China has made unremitting efforts to resolve disputes with the Philippines in the South China Sea in a peaceful manner. We have reached important multilateral and bilateral consensus at the time of successive Philippine governments from the administration of Marcos to the Benigno Aquino III administration to peacefully resolve disputes in the South China Sea through consultation and negotiation, manage differences and advance practical cooperation at sea. At the bilateral level, the two countries agreed to resolve relevant disputes through negotiations, exercise restraint and refrain from taking any action that may aggravate the situation, promote practical cooperation and joint development at sea, and not allow relevant disputes to affect the sound development of the bilateral relations and peace and stability in the South China Sea. At the regional and multilateral level, in 2002, the DOC was signed. The two countries made the commitment in DOC to resolve relevant disputes through negotiation and consultation.
In the fourth part, it says that in recent years,in violation of bilateral agreement, the Philippines has, time and again, taken actions to complicate and escalate its disputes with China in the South China Sea. It's the Philippines that has created and stirred up the trouble.
The Philippines has built military facilities on relevant islands and reefs of China's Nansha Qundao which it has illegally occupied. The Philippines also laid territorial claims to China's Huangyan Dao. The Philippines has sent military vessels to harass Chinese fishermen and fishing boats. It has also conducted unilateral oil and natural gas exploitation in waters under China's jurisdiction.
In January 2013, the Philippine government at the time unilaterally initiated the South China Sea arbitration. Such a move went against the agreement with China to resolve disputes through bilateral consultation and negotiation, defied relevant restrictive conditions for triggering arbitration under UNCLOS and infringed on the rights of China as a State Party to UNCLOS to independently choosing means of disputes settlement. The Philippines has abused the dispute settlement procedures established in UNCLOS by fabricating facts and telling lies in an attempt to totally negate China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea.
In the fifth part, it is stated that China is an important force to uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea. While firmly safeguarding its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea, China remains committed to resolving disputes through negotiation and consultation, managing differences through rules and mechanisms, and achieving win-win results through mutually beneficial cooperation. China is committed to turning the South China Sea into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation.
I'd like to stress that the South China Sea arbitration was unilaterally initiated by the then government of the Republic of the Philippines. It breaches the agreement between China and the Philippines, consensus among countries in the region and international law. It's bound to be discarded. China has noted that His Excellency President Duterte and the new Philippine administration made positive statements on the South China Sea arbitration. China welcomes their readiness to have consultation and dialogue with China on the South China Sea issue. China stands ready to work with the new Philippine administration to properly handle the South China Sea issue and bring China-Philippines relations back to the right track at an early date. Early removal of the obstacles posed by the arbitration will help lead to early restart of all-round cooperation and early tangible benefit of such cooperation for the two peoples. China has confidence in the future of China-Philippines relations.
That's all I have to say, now I'm ready to take your questions.
CCTV: We have seen that after the Arbitral Tribunal rendered the award, some countries claim that the award has binding force for both parties. As they see it, if China refuses to implement the decision of the Arbitral Tribunal, it is a violation of the international law and will undermine China's international reputation. How would you comment on this?
Liu Zhenmin: As for whether the award has binding force, the Chinese government has made its position clear. As the statement of the Foreign Ministry says, it is null and void, and has no binding force. China does not recognize it and will not enforce it. Why? The reason is fully expounded in the Foreign Ministry's statement and the white paper to be issued today. Today,I will focus on the legality of the Arbitral Tribunal to reveal the true nature of the Arbitral Tribunal.
First of all, the tribunal is not an international court. It has no relation to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague in the UN system. It has certain ties with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg, but it is not part of ITLOS. It does not belong to the same system of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague but has a bit to do with it. The PCA provides its secretariat service. In its public hearings, the Arbitral Tribunal uses the court room of the PCA. But that's all. Please note,this Arbitral Tribunal is not an "international court".
Second, the composition of the Arbitral Tribunal is actually the result of political manipulation. The Arbitral Tribunal consists of five members. Apart from Judge Rüdiger Wolfrum from Germany who was appointed by the Philippines, the other four were appointed by the then President of ITLOS, a Japanese judge Shunji Yanai. Now who is this Shunji Yanai? He was and still is a judge at ITLOS, but he is also the chairman of the Japanese Advisory Panel on the Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security of the Abe administration of Japan. He played a big role in assisting Abe to lift the ban on Japan's right to collective self-defense, which challenges the post-war international order. He used to be the ambassador to the United States. Various information has proved that he manipulated the composition of the Arbitral Tribunal and continued to exert influence on the operation of the tribunal.
Third, the composition of the Arbitral Tribunal is seriously flawed. As you can see, four of the five judges come from Europe: one from Germany, one from France, one from the Netherlands and one from Poland. All four countries are members of the European Union. The fifth one comes from Ghana and once served as the President when ITLOS was first established, but he lives in Europe. So is such a tribunal representative? Are the members familiar with the Asian culture or the South China Sea issue? It concerns the representativeness and impartiality of a tribunal or court, which has been the focus of great international attention for decades. This was why in 1945 when the UN Charter was signed and when the Statute of the International Court of Justice was concluded,a clear stipulation was established that the composition of such courts must be representative of the cultures and major law systems of the world. There was also such a requirement when ITLOS was established. The reason was to ensure the representation and authority of such courts. In the ICJ and ITLOS,there are Chinese judges. In the PCA, there are also Chinese judges. I am one of the four Chinese arbitrators of the PCA. But in this Arbitral Tribunal, none of the five judges come from Asia, not to say China. Do they really know about Asia, about Asia's culture, about the issue in the South China Sea? And about the complex geopolitical situation in Asia and the history of the South China Sea? On what ground can they make a fair judgment?
Fourth, the operation of the Arbitral Tribunal is quite interesting, to the astonishment of experts of international law. The pre-existing opinions of some of the judges made people believe that they would safeguard certain interests, but after the Arbitral Tribunal was in operation, they went against what they had expressed in their previous articles and statements. The question is whether they can stay true to their academic ethics and real belief. One of the witnesses in the hearings said in his work that at least 12 features in Nansha Qundao are islands that can have 200-nautical-mile EEZs, but at the public hearing, he said that there is not a a single one. How can such a person be regarded as an expert? Unfortunately, his point was adopted by the Arbitral Tribunal without any investigation or study.
Moreover, who is behind this Arbitral Tribunal? These arbitrators were paid. And who supported and paid them? Was it the Philippines or some other country? So the mechanism of this operation is completely different from the ICJ or ITLOS.
The judges of the ICJ and ITLOS there are paid by the UN to ensure their independence and fairness. But in this Arbitral Tribunal the five judges were paid by the Philippines or probably some others. We don't know. But we do know that they were paid for their service. This is the first ad hoc arbitral tribunal that claims to be established in accordance with Annex VII of UNCLOS, but it went against the expectations of the founders of UNCLOS and created a very bad precedent. Last year, I said that this arbitration could become a notorious case in the history of the international law. And the behavior of the Arbitral Tribunal has shown that it is very difficult for compulsory arbitration procedures to be successful and this Arbitral Tribunal is a failure. How can the award rendered by such an Arbitral Tribunal have legal force and be credible and fair? Some countries are saying that the award has a binding force and should be enforced by relevant parties. This is a lie. Who will enforce an award with no credibility? The position of the Chinese government is clear-cut: this arbitration is null and void and not binding. We do not accept or recognize it. Thank you.
Reuters: What China's next steps are going to be after the issuance of the award? Will China send more military equipment to the South China Sea? Will China declare an air defense identification zone in the South China Sea?
Liu Zhenmin: It is normal for the Chinese navy to operate in the South China Sea because it is South China Sea. However, we've seen that a certain country has sent large aircraft carrier fleet to the South China Sea. So you can draw conclusion for yourselves. China's position on the arbitration is clear. We do not recognize or implement the award. It is just a piece of waste paper. You may just chuck it in the bin, leave it on the shelf, or put it in archives. In the end, the parties concerned will be back to the track of negotiation. China hopes that we can go back to the track of negotiation with the Philippines as soon as possible.
As you can see, the title of the white paper is China Adheres to the Position of Settling Through Negotiation the Relevant Disputes Between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea. This is its theme and the policy of the Chinese government. We hope that China and coastal states in the South China Sea, including the ASEAN countries, will together act upon the DOC signed by China and the ten ASEAN countries and jointly uphold the peace and stability of the South China Sea and the freedom of navigation and overflight. This policy remains unchanged and will not change.
As to whether China will set up an air defense identification zone, let me first make clear that China has the right to do so. This system is not invented by China, but by some other major countries. We have set up one in the East China Sea, and whether we need to set up another one in the South China Sea will depend on the degree of threat we face. If our security is threatened, we have the right to do so. And it will depend on our comprehensive judgment.
We hope that other countries will not take the opportunity to threaten China but to work with China in the direction towards peace and stability in the South China Sea and do not make the South China Sea an origin of war. China's goal is for the South China Sea to become the sea of peace, friendship and cooperation. Thank you.
People's Daily: Why does China decide to issue this white paper on the relevant disputes Between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea? What messages does China want to convey?
Liu Zhenmin: In issuing this white paper, the Chinese government wants to send messages and to state positions. And we want to set the facts straight. Three and half years ago when the then Philippine government initiated the arbitration, the so-called facts it cited in its request were distorted. So were many of the legal principles. And in the arbitration process many facts were also distorted, and many mistakes were made in the application of law. So our primary objective is to set the facts straight, making clear that our sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea are established in the long course of history, not entirely by UNCLOS, but by usual rules of international law. So firstly we want to clear the facts.
Second, there is an agreement between China and the Philippines that negotiation is the only way for us to resolve the disputes in the South China Sea. So the white paper is both intended to state our policy and to send a positive signal to the international community, to coastal states in the South China Sea and to our neighbor the Philippines, to make clear that the disputes between China and the Philippines and in the wider South China Sea can only be resolved through negotiation. There is no other way out. Don't imagine that a tribunal can solve any issue. So I invite you to read the white paper carefully. Thank you.
BBC: You talked about the need for agreement to settle the disputes in the South China Sea. Is China prepared to share the resources of the South China Sea, for example, fishing, oil, gas, with other nations? And what is the mechanism by which that would happen? Do you need a direct country-to-country agreement or something like that? After this sort of disputes, after this white paper process, what is the mechanism by which China can share resources in the South China Sea with other countries if it's prepared to do so?
Liu Zhenmin: It should be noted that since UNCLOS was formulated in 1982, China and coastal countries of the South China Sea have one after another become State Parties to the Convention. Disputes between China and coastal countries of the South China Sea over maritime delimitation have emerged since then. To address the disputes, China has set up bilateral channels of communication with all coastal countries of the South China Sea. For example, we have started negotiations on maritime delimitation with Vietnam. After years of efforts, we signed the agreement on maritime delimitation in the Beibu Gulf and the agreement on the management of fishing activities in the Beibu Gulf in the year 2000. The negotiations on maritime delimitation, the consultations on joint development and the cooperation in low-sensitive areas, in particular, the delimitation of the region outside the mouth of the Beibu Gulf, and many other mechanisms are all operating well. In 2011, we also signed an agreement on guiding principles for settlement of maritime issues.
China and the Philippines have maintained communication on fishing and confidence building measures since 1996. During the administration of President Arroyo, China and the Philippines also cooperated on joint marine seismic endeavors in disputed areas. Later, Vietnam also joined in the cooperation. We wanted to move the cooperation into the next stage, but then the Philippines got a new administration, and our partner changed its position. The cooperation was stalled as a result.
With Malaysia and Brunei, China is maintaining bilateral communication and cooperation. As a matter of fact, China and coastal countries of the South China Sea all understand the complexity of the relevant disputes in the South China Sea and know that they cannot be addressed within a short period of time. So we have always been talking about cooperation. China was the earliest to propose the concept of joint development while shelving disputes and differences. It was to the Philippines that China made the proposal for the first time. Our policy has remained unchanged. And cooperation only stopped because the administration of Aquino III initiated the arbitration. I hope we can turn this page after the arbitration. As I said, the award is null and void and will not be enforced. I call on everyone to go back to the negotiating table, to the track of cooperation, and to resolve disputes through negotiation and share common interests through cooperation.
To conduct cooperation on fishery, oil and gas resources have been the consistent position of the Chinese government. China and coastal countries of the South China Sea have the ability to reach an agreement. We are confident about this. Thank you.
Takung Wen Wei Media Group: Some people believe that, according to paragraph 4 of Article 288 of UNCLOS, in the event of a dispute, as to whether a tribunal has jurisdiction, the matter shall be settled by decision of that tribunal. On what ground does China believe that the Arbitral Tribunal has no jurisdiction over the relevant disputes between China and the Philippines?
Liu Zhenmin: Some people have said that, and that has been said by some arbitrators of the Arbitral Tribunal as well. But this is exactly an example of the abuse of UNCLOS and the power of the tribunal. The dispute settlement procedures under Part XV of UNCLOS form an integral system and cannot be viewed in isolation.
First, the Arbitral Tribunal should understand that disputes over territorial sovereignty are certainly beyond the scope of UNCLOS. They are subject to traditional international law. Second, according to Article 298 of UNCLOS, State Parties are entitled to exclude disputes, including disputes over maritime delimitation, from compulsory settlement procedures. If someone wants to exploit the so-called compulsory procedures and initiate an arbitration, then the matters should be heard in accordance with provisions of UNCLOS, including Articles 280 and 281. In other words, first of all, it must be determined whether agreement has been reached between the two countries concerned on means of dispute settlement. As the Chinese government has reiterated repeatedly, between China and the Philippines, there is agreement that bilateral negotiation should be the way to address the disputes. There are statements and agreements on this. But this has been ignored by the Arbitral Tribunal. That means Articles 280 and 281 of UNCLOS were not properly applied by the Arbitral Tribunal. In other words, even if a matter involves disputes over the interpretation and application of UNCLOS, the Arbitral Tribunal should, first of all, find out whether the countries concerned have discussed the matter of interpretation and application. Unfortunately, this has been omitted by the Arbitral Tribunal. So as you can see, the Arbitral Tribunal ignored many facts and procedures and directly jumped to the conclusion that based on Paragraph 4 of Article 288, it has the right to decide whether it has jurisdiction over the case. It has ignored China's rights and abused the provisions of the Convention and the relevant procedures. This shows that the Arbitral Tribunal has credibility problems in all respects. It has no credibility at all.
The Arbitral Tribunal must act in strict accordance with the Convention, and follow the due procedures-something this Arbitral Tribunal has not done. You can't just cite one article and claim jurisdiction. There is no legal basis for doing that. The law gives you both the rights and obligations. They form an integral whole. You can't just say that you have the rights but ignore your obligations. When making the award on jurisdiction, this Arbitral Tribunal only claimed its rights but failed to properly perform its obligations under the Convention. Thank you.
Shenzhen Satellite TV: Now some people describe the decision of this Arbitral Tribunal as nothing more than a piece of paper. But if some countries do implement this decision, how will China respond?
Liu Zhenmin: In international law, a principle says that illegal behavior does not generate legal effect. So illegal award will not be enforced and has no binding force. Such an award, just like a piece of paper, will not be enforced by anyone.
I believe that countries within and outside the region need to fully understand that the award is just a piece of paper. It is null and void, and has no binding force. If anyone wants to enforce the award, they will be committing new illegal acts. The Chinese government will take necessary measures to stop them. We hope that all countries, in carrying out their activities or asserting their claims in the South China Sea, will go back to where we were before the arbitration.We hope we will resolve the relevant disputes through negotiation, and manage the disputes and share common interest through cooperation. The award will by no means be enforced. Thank you.
CNN: I'm from CNN. Vice Minister Liu, you've been saying that the theme of this white paper is about settling through negotiation the relevant disputes between China and the Philippines. But now the arbitration has already been initiated by the Philippines, and the award has been rendered. China has made clear its position of non-acceptance, non-recognition and non-participation. If the views of the Philippines as one of the parties are supported by the award, would China require the Philippines to also declare its non-acceptance of the award as a precondition for restarting the negotiation? Given China's insistence on sovereignty over Nanhai Zhudao and relevant waters and as the award has supported the Philippines' view that some of the Chinese activities have violated sovereign rights and interests of the Philippines, does it mean matters of sovereignty are off-limit in the negotiation?
Liu Zhenmin: Some questions you mentioned should be on the agenda of the negotiation, while some should be shelved in the negotiation. But the most urgent issue is whether we can come back to negotiation and how we can do that. China's policy now is that we hope the new government of the Philippines can work in the same direction with China, that it can come to realize the award is just a piece of paper and should not be enforced, and that we should put it aside and come back to the negotiating table.
The negotiation between China and the Philippines should be conducted on the basis of respecting historical facts and in accordance with international law. This is a basic principle for negotiations among countries. This is the principle China has followed in bilateral communication with ASEAN countries for many years, so we must not and will not have the negotiation based on the award of the arbitration. You mentioned the theme of our white paper, which is "China Adheres to the Position of Settling Through Negotiation the Relevant Disputes Between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea". What we need is to put aside the award of the arbitration and go back to the track of negotiation.
The award cannot serve as a solution, so it could not be expected to be the basis for any negotiation to settle the disputes. We want our Philippine friends to be aware of that. In fact, many Philippine friends also support China's position. We hope that others will not stir up trouble and encourage or demand that the Philippine government implement the award, for that would not yield good results but escalate tensions and disputes among coastal countries of the South China Sea and countries in Southeast Asia. Thank you.
China Daily: We have noticed that in recent days, some ASEAN countries have explicitly expressed their opposition to the South China Sea arbitration. How does China view the China-ASEAN relationship in the post-arbitration era?
Liu Zhenmin: Let me first say that the disputes in the South China Sea are between China and some ASEAN member states. They are not issues between China and ASEAN as a whole. There are only a handful of claimant states, while ASEAN has ten member states. To be honest, relations and cooperation between China and ASEAN have been affected to a certain degree because of the disputes. But it is Chinese government's policy and hope that our cooperation with ASEAN will not be affected, and this is what we have been working for. Therefore, over the past three years and more, while responding to the arbitration case initiated by the Philippines, we have also been working actively to promote China-ASEAN cooperation.
Premier Li Keqiang put forward the 2+7 cooperation framework for China-ASEAN cooperation at the China-ASEAN Summit in 2013. This is still being implemented. President Xi Jinping put forward the idea and initiative of building a China-ASEAN community of shared future during his visit to Southeast Asia. So China's cooperation with ASEAN has not been greatly affected on the whole, but disturbed somehow. We hold that the South China Sea issue should be handled within the framework of the DOC through joint efforts of China and ASEAN countries. In other words, the disputes should be settled through negotiation between countries directly concerned, and China and ASEAN countries should work together to uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea.
China is ASEAN's largest trading partner and ASEAN is our third largest trading partner. Our cooperation has made rapid progress over the past 25 years, especially in the past decade. This cooperation is mutually beneficial to China and ASEAN countries. I believe China's continued development will help promote the economic development of all ASEAN countries.
We are celebrating the 25th anniversary of China-ASEAN dialogue relations this year, and we will hold a summit to commemorate the anniversary in September in Vientiane, capital of the Laos which has taken the rotating presidency of ASEAN. Leaders of China and ASEAN countries will attend the gathering. We hope that we can take this opportunity to upgrade and deepen China-ASEAN cooperation, and that the South China Sea issue will not affect China-ASEAN cooperation. This is why the Chinese government has been saying that we must handle the South China Sea issue in accordance with the DOC and prevent it from undermining China-ASEAN cooperation. We hope that China and ASEAN nations can work in the same direction and make joint efforts toward this goal. Thank you.
China National Radio: Some people say that the award of the Arbitral Tribunal can help different parties to clarify their claims and narrow their differences, and therefore can be used as a basis for diplomatic settlement of the disputes. What is your comment on this?
Liu Zhenmin: We have been emphasizing in the past three years that the Arbitral Tribunal has no jurisdiction, and the award has no binding force, is null and void. How can an award, which is unfair and has no binding force, serve as the basis for narrowing differences? As you can see, this award is purely intended to deny China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea and to legitimize the Philippines' claims and behavior. We cannot expect such a radical and one-sided award to help narrow differences and clarify claims. This radical, partial, unfair and unlawful award cannot serve as the basis for narrowing differences.
The basis for narrowing differences should still be respect for historical facts and international law. Hasn't everyone been calling for acting in accordance with international law? Then let us return to international law. And specifically, we need to come back to the negotiating table. Negotiation is a process for and will result in narrowing differences. This is our consistent policy, and we have successfully proven that negotiation is the right way forward. We have resolved land boundary issues with 12 out of 14 neighbors, though China and some of these countries had different claims. We have delimited maritime boundaries with Vietnam in the Beibu Gulf, which is also an example of how we can narrow differences through negotiation. So negotiation should be the only way forward for narrowing differences and clarifying claims, and we must respect historical facts and follow international law in doing so. Thank you.
Phoenix TV: I would like to go back to the issue of the relationship between China and the Philippines. We know that Mr. Duterte has been sworn in as the new president of the Philippines. After that, he has said some positive things about the relations between China and the Philippines. Now the award has been rendered. What is your view on Mr. Duterte's comments on China-Philippines relations? What implications will the award have for China-Philippines relations?
Liu Zhenmin: China and the Philippines are neighbors across the sea. We have over 1,000 years of friendship. The Philippines, though a Catholic country, has much in common with China in traditional culture. We both suffer from natural disasters. For example, the Philippines suffers from typhoons several dozen times every year. Sometimes, after a typhoon hit the Philippines, the next day it would come to China's Taiwan Province and southeastern coast. Therefore, we are in a sense a community of shared destiny in the face of natural disasters.
Starting from 1975 when our two countries established diplomatic relations, no matter who is the president of the Philippines, we have been able to maintain the momentum of stable and friendly relations. So we find it difficult to understand why the administration of President Aquino III decided to initiate the arbitration case to infringe upon China's rights and interests. In fact, he visited China shortly after he took office. So what he did baffled us. Fortunately, the new administration of the Philippines has taken office, which provides opportunities for improving China-Philippines relations.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi said yesterday, and I also mentioned earlier, that President Duterte and the new administration have made some positive statements and gestures on the South China Sea issue, in particular, the arbitration case. We welcome this. We hope that China and the Philippines can go back to the negotiating table to settle the disputes in the South China Sea and create better conditions to improve our bilateral relations and enhance cooperation.
I hope after the arbitration case is closed, we will embrace new opportunities and we want to see that day come earlier. We will be patient and confident as we wait for the opportunities. I'm sure a cooperative relationship will bring tangible benefits to the people of both countries, and contribute to cooperation between China and ASEAN, peace and stability in Southeast Asia as well as peace, stability and cooperation in the South China Sea. Thank you.
Xinhua News Agency: We know that China already made a declaration of optional exceptions pursuant to UNCLOS back in 2006. But this time the Arbitral Tribunal claims that the optional exceptions declaration China has made should not deprive it of jurisdiction over the case. How would this affect those countries which have made similar declarations?
Liu Zhenmin: Before 1982, in negotiating UNCLOS, our forefathers were very wise to have formulated Article 298 that allows State Parties to make declarations under this article to exclude matters such as maritime delimitation and military activities from compulsory dispute settlement procedures upon their ratification and adoption of UNCLOS. The goal of the Convention is to ensure a stable international maritime order. The international community is unlike a country which has its own legislative, law-enforcement and government institutions, and international law does not recognize international police. International law, including the law of the sea, have to be implemented on the basis of mutual respect and agreements between countries. So the settlement of disputes concerning maritime delimitation must be based on common understanding among countries concerned. So Article 298 of UNCLOS allows State Parties to exclude matters of maritime delimitation, and military and law-enforcement activities from compulsory settlement procedures. The purpose is to ensure a stable international maritime order and the stability of state-to-state relations. This is needed by international law and the reality in today's world.
After the Convention came into effect in 1994, more than 30 countries have issued such declarations including four of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council: Russia, France, China and Britain. The only exception is the United States. Even till this day, the United States has not acceded to UNCLOS. It has stayed outside UNCLOS, and yet at the same time, it has been criticizing others and demanding that State Parties should observe the Convention.
For those 30 plus countries, I'm sure they follow closely the award, because the award not only infringes on China's rights, but also undermines the legal effect of Article 298, and to some extent, the integrity of the Convention and the integrity of the dispute settlement procedures established by UNCLOS. I advise you to read carefully Part XV of the Convention. The dispute settlement procedures form an integral system. The articles and paragraphs must not be viewed separately or individually. The mistake made by the Arbitral Tribunal is that it made the award and claimed its jurisdiction based on one article or paragraph alone. It forgot the procedures form an integral system. So this award not only violates China's rights, but also undermines the rights enjoyed by State Parties in accordance with the mechanisms established under Article 298 of the Convention as well as the integrity of the Convention. I believe countries concerned will properly handle this issue in the future. Thank you.
China Review News of Hong Kong: We have noticed that the mainland has been making every effort to uphold China's sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea. At the same time, the Taiwan authorities recently said that it also enjoys entitlements in the South China Sea under international law, law of the sea included, and believes that the award has no legal effect. How would you comment on the statements made by the Taiwan authorities? What can be done by the two sides across the Taiwan Straits in the future to jointly uphold territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea?
Liu Zhenmin: The term "mainland" (dalu) is the term used by Taiwan compatriots. If you are from Hong Kong, the proper term is "hinterland" (neidi). These are unique terms used in different parts of China.
That aside, on your question, I believe that friends from the press have also noticed what you mentioned. Yesterday the Taiwan authorities stated its explicit position. They are against the award, as it violates the rights of the entire Chinese nation. To uphold our sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea is the shared responsibility and obligation of the Chinese people across the Taiwan Straits. We are safeguarding the legacy of our ancestors. The current situation between the mainland and Taiwan is caused by history, and China will be reunited some day in the future. But to safeguard the legacy of our ancestors is our common responsibility and obligation. This is a consensus across the Straits. We also have extensive exchanges in international law between experts across the Straits. I believe both sides will remain committed to the consensus. We hope to make concerted efforts with our Taiwan compatriots to uphold the legacy. Thank you.
Dragon TV: If the Philippines refuses to come back to the negotiating table, what kind of measures will China take?
Liu Zhenmin: State-to-state relations are like a marriage. The two sides must meet each other halfway. If the Philippines refuses to come back to the negotiating table, the bilateral relations will certainly be affected, and the current situation will be difficult to reverse. Three years after the initiation of the arbitration, many leaders of the Philippines, the Philippine government and many friends in the Philippines have come to realize that if we don't go back to the track of negotiation, the bilateral relationship will be affected continuously. Thank you.
China News Service: After the award was rendered by the Arbitral Tribunal, what is China's view on the role of the DOC? Will China stop the consultation on a COC?
Liu Zhenmin: First of all, unfortunately, in its proceedings the Arbitral Tribunal denied the legal effect of the DOC, especially Article 4 of the DOC, which stipulates that sovereign states directly concerned should work through negotiations to settle their disputes. I have read many articles, including papers from the Chinese Society of International Law, which criticize and denounce such acts of the Arbitral Tribunal. The Arbitral Tribunal's denial of the legal effect of both the DOC and the countries' commitment in the DOC goes against international practice and the basic principles upheld by the ICJ, the most authoritative international legal institution, in handling cases. This award has caused concern about the DOC by China and ASEAN countries. Over the past few years, in our communication, we have been very clear that we hope that ASEAN countries will not give up the DOC as a result of the award. ASEAN countries have also been reiterating their position that the DOC remains regional rules for ASEAN countries and China in jointly handling the South China Sea issue. I want to say that the DOC represents regional rules for China and ASEAN countries in handling the South China Sea issue.
In the past five years, I have been working on implementing the DOC and pushing forward consultations on a COC. The consultation process is going forward. Overall, the DOC will not be affected by the award. All ASEAN countries have pledged that the DOC will not be affected. This document was jointly signed by foreign ministers of the 11 countries. Their signatures have effect, and that will not be affected by the award. We will continue to work with ASEAN countries to comprehensively and effectively implement the DOC in its entirety and move forward consultations on a COC and work for early conclusion of a COC on the basis of consensus. Thank you.
Guo Weimin: In Conclusion, let me say a few words. Some are saying that the release of the award will isolate China. I don't see this prospect. Their intention, in fact, will not be realized. The Chinese government and the Foreign Ministry have released information showing that as far as we have learned, the governments of over 70 countries from various continents have voiced their support for the position of the Chinese government. Many friends from the press and think tanks, experts and scholars have also expressed similar views. Some media friends hope to know more about this. If you need, we will provide the related materials in the future.
So much for today's press conference. Thank you, Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin. Thank you all.