Foreign Minister Wang Yi delivers a speech at the fourth World Peace Forum in Beijing on June 27.[Photo/China Daily]
Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing “will not indulge actions of encroaching and infringing Chinese territory, rights and interests” when it comes to the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea.
“China’s sovereignty over the Nansha Islands has not expanded and will never shrink. Otherwise, we would let our ancestors and predecessors down,” Wang said on June 27 in response to a guest question at a luncheon of the fourth World Peace Forum in Beijing.
The islands have come under the spotlight recently after Washington criticized China’s land reclamation and building of various facilities there.
Wang traced the history of China’s 1,000-year governance of the islands and how it legitimately retook the islands after World War II.
China “actually has been the biggest victim in the South China Sea issue”, as other countries started encroaching and illegally occupying sovereign islands and reefs following the discovery of oil under the sea bed, Wang said, adding that the country is “resolutely determined to and able to’ continue to “take reasonable and legitimate approaches” to safeguard its rights and interests.
The statement was noteworthy, said Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, because previous official positions on the islands were mostly delivered by foreign ministry spokesmen or deputy ministers. Wang’s stance has “drawn a line” on the issue, Ruan said.
“China’s longtime tolerance in the past has not won the respect it deserves, but only encroachment again and again”, Ruan said.
Some in Washington have said construction on the islands represents an expansion of South China Sea claims by China.
“This is a misunderstanding, and even a misinterpretation. China is not expanding claims but championing what is its own,” Ruan said.
Wang also reiterated Beijing’s unchanged position and commitment to resolving the issue peacefully. China will “work with ASEAN countries to ensure peace and stability”, he said.
As for the latest projects over some of the islands, he said China has offered public services to the international community by building facilities for civilian use.
“China’s necessary construction on its own islands and reefs is totally different in nature from some other countries’ seizure of Chinese islands and building facilities on them,” Wang said.
Major General Zhu Chenghu, a professor at National Defense University of the People’s Liberation Army, said China’s recent construction actually facilitates stability and tranquillity in the sea, not the opposite.
Washington is partial in this regard, Zhu said, and it is rare to see the US criticize the maritime policies of Vietnam, for example.
Freedom of navigation is a “false question” when it comes to that part of the South China Sea, he said. “It is China that most needs maritime security there.”