On 18 June 2016, the Fiji Sun published a signed article by Ambassador Zhang Ping entitled "South China Sea Disputes Should be Solved by Parties Directly Concerned Through Negotiation and Consultation". The full text is as follows:
South China Sea Disputes Should be Solved by Parties Directly Concerned Through Negotiation and Consultation
The South China Sea issue is a hot topic nowadays in the international media. The current South China Sea issue involves two tiers of issues. The first tier of issues are the territorial disputes over the Nansha Islands caused by some coastal countries' illegal occupation of some maritime features of China's Nansha Island since 1970s, and the disputes concerning overlapping claims of maritime rights and interests over some maritime areas in South China Sea resulted from the establishment and development of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This is the crux of the South China Sea issue. The second tier of issues relate to the political and military intervention in the South China Sea by some outside countries which heightened tension in the region. The Philippines' unilateral initiation and obstinate forcing ahead of the South China Sea arbitration further complicates this already complex and difficult situation.
The islands in the South China Sea have been Chinese territory since ancient times. China was the first country to discover, name, explore and exploit the resources of the South China Sea Islands and the first to continuously exercise sovereign powers over them. China enjoys indisputable sovereignty over South China Sea Islands and the adjacent waters. China's sovereignty and relevant claims of rights in the South China Sea have been gradually formed in the long historical course and upheld by successive Chinese governments.
China has all along stood for peaceful settlement of territorial and maritime delimitation disputes through negotiation and consultation with States directly concerned on the basis of respecting historical facts and in accordance with international law.
China and the Philippines have agreed to settle their disputes in the South China Sea through negotiation and reaffirmed this agreement on many occasions. However, in January 2013, without having any negotiation concerning relevant disputes with China, or having the consent of China, the Philippines unilaterally initiated compulsory arbitration proceeding over its dispute with China in the South China Sea.
This act by the Philippines not only violated the agreement reached by China and the Philippines on the South China Sea disputes settlement and the commitment it has made in 2002 under the Declaration on the Conduct of Parities in the South China Sea (DOC), but also violated the right of a state Party to UNCLOS to choose the means of dispute settlement of its own will.
Territorial sovereignty issues are not subject to UNCLOS. Furthermore, China has already made, pursuant to Article 298 of the UNCLOS, an optional exceptions declaration, excluding disputes concerning, among other, maritime delimitation from the UNCLOS third party dispute settlement procedures. More than 30 countries in the world have filed the similar declarations including 4 permanent United Nations Security Council members.
The Philippines distorted its territorial and maritime disputes with China over some the Nansha islands and reefs as matters concerning the interpretation and application of UNCLOS, deliberately circumvent the declaration on optional exceptions made by China under UNCLOS and abused the compulsory procedures for dispute settlement. It in essence is to deny the fact of its illegal seizure of or claim on several maritime features of the Nansha Islands and negate China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea. The Chinese government has explicitly stated that it does not accept or participate in the arbitration on South China Sea disputes, nor will it accept or recognize the ruling of the arbitration, let alone enforce it.
Disputes over territorial and maritime rights and interests are not uncommon in the world. There is no lack of successful examples of resolving the disputes through bilateral consultation and negotiation. Since 1960s, China has resolved boundary issues with 12 of its 14 neighbors on land through negotiations and demarcated around 20,000 kilometers, or 90% of its boundary. China and Vietnam also did maritime delimitation in the Beibu Gulf through negotiations. Such achievements have proven the effectiveness of negotiation and consultation in proper resolution of boundary disputes. China's proposition on peaceful settlement of the South China Sea issue through negotiation and consultation has received understanding and support of nearly 60 countries in the world.
China advocates "dual track "approach to handle the South China Sea issue, i.e. relevant disputes should be resolved peacefully through negotiation and consultation between parties directly concerned on the basis of respecting historical facts and international law, and China and ASEAN member states work together to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea. This is the most realistic and effective way to properly handle the South China Sea issue.
For a long time, freedom of navigation in the South China Sea has never been a problem or affected by disputes over the Nansha Islands, nor will it ever be a problem in the future. To ensure freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea is also important for China. Outside intervention is neither helpful to the peaceful settlement of the South China Sea disputes, nor conducive to the peace and stability of the South China Sea. China is firmly opposed to it.
The Chinese government is committed to upholding territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests and adheres to the position of settling the disputes through bilateral negotiation and consultation, managing differences through relevant rules and mechanisms and achieving win-win outcomes through mutually beneficial cooperation. China will continue to remain committed to the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea enjoyed by all countries in accordance with international law and to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea.
China and the Philippines are neighbors facing each other across the sea. The two peoples share a deep bond of traditional friendship. The door of China-Philippines bilateral negotiation remains open. It is the time for the Philippines to cease the arbitral proceedings and return to right path of settling the relevant disputes in the South China Sea through bilateral negotiation with China.