Full text: Chinese State Councilor’s interview on so-called award by arbitral tribunal for South China Sea arbitration

15 July 2016/ Xinhua

BEIJING, July 15 (Xinhua) — On 14 July, State Councilor Yang Jiechi gave an interview to state media on the so-called award of the Arbitral Tribunal for the South China Sea arbitration during which he elaborated on China’s position. The full text of the interview is as follows:

Reporter: On 12 July, the Arbitral Tribunal for the South China Sea arbitration issued its so-called award, which attempts to deny China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea. In response, China issued a Statement on the Award of the Arbitral Tribunal in the South China Sea Arbitration Established at the Request of the Republic of the Philippines, Statement on China’s Territorial Sovereignty and Maritime Rights and Interests in the South China Sea and a White Paper entitled China Adheres to the Position of Settling Through Negotiation the Relevant Disputes Between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea, stating China’s solemn position of non-acceptance and non-recognition of the award and reaffirming China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea. How do you view the award by the so-called Arbitral Tribunal for the South China Sea arbitration?

Yang Jiechi: The Arbitral Tribunal for the South China Sea arbitration has issued its so-called award. This award is illegal and invalid in every sense. The Chinese government has released relevant statements and a White Paper stating its solemn position of firmly opposing the arbitration and not accepting or recognizing the award. This position of the central government has the strong support and endorsement from people of various social sectors in China. They have expressed their unequivocal attitude of opposing the illegal arbitration and safeguarding sovereign rights and interests by contributing articles and articulating views through the press, TV and SMS as well as online platforms like WeChat and Weibo.

The South China Sea arbitration has been a political farce all along, staged under the cover of law and driven by a hidden agenda. Certain countries outside the region have attempted to deny China’s sovereign rights and interests in the South China Sea through the arbitration. They have even brought other countries into the scheme to isolate and discredit China in the international community with a view to holding back China’s peaceful development. But such attempts are futile, to say the least, and in so doing, they are only lifting a stone to drop it on their own feet. I must point out that the arbitration runs counter to the spirit of international rule of law, puts regional peace and stability in jeopardy, and undermines the interests of the international community. Most countries in the world see this clearly. Over 70 countries and international and regional organizations have made statements showing their understanding of and support for China’s position. This speaks volumes about the attitude of the international community toward the political farce, proving the futility of certain countries’ scheme to hem in and smear China.

Sovereignty is a bottom line for China. Big as China is, we cannot afford to give away a single inch of territory that our ancestors have left to us. China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea have been formed over the course of over two thousand years. They are fully backed by historical and legal evidence. Under no circumstances can they ever be negated by a so-called award that is full of nonsense. The award can neither change historical facts nor deny China’s claims of rights and interests in the South China Sea. Still less can it waver our resolve and determination to safeguard territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests. China’s position of not accepting or recognizing the award will not change. At the same time, China will stay committed to following a path of peaceful development, to resolving the disputes in the South China Sea through negotiation and consultation, to developing friendly relations and win-win cooperation with its neighbors, and to working with others to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.

Reporter: Why do you believe that the Philippines’ initiation of arbitration is against international law?

Yang Jiechi: A basic requirement of international rule of law is that actions must be taken in strict accordance with the law. The crux of disputes between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea are issues concerning territory and maritime delimitation. Territorial issues are not governed by UNCLOS. On maritime delimitation, China made a declaration on optional exceptions in 2006 pursuant with UNCLOS stipulations, excluding it from the dispute settlement mechanisms of UNCLOS. By unilaterally initiating arbitration, the Philippine government under Aquino III has gone against its long-standing bilateral agreement with China that disputes in the South China Sea shall be settled through negotiation, violated the DOC signed in 2002 by China and ASEAN countries, the Philippines included, and breached international law and UNCLOS. Hence, this arbitration has been illegal since the very beginning. It cannot be seen as an application of international law.

Reporter: Why do you think that the Arbitral Tribunal lacks legitimacy and impartiality? Why is the award illegal and invalid?

Yang Jiechi: If you look at the composition of the Arbitral Tribunal, most of the arbitrators were appointed by Shunji Yanai, the then President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and a right-wing Japanese intent on ridding Japan of post-war arrangements. In the proceedings, some arbitrators and experts even backtracked from their long-held views to make the case for the Philippines. Anyone with good sense can see the tricks.

In disregard of China’s staunch position, the Arbitral Tribunal willfully went beyond its authority, turned a blind eye to the history and reality of the South China Sea and misinterpreted relevant stipulations of UNCLOS. It has deviated from UNCLOS from the very beginning and overstepped and expanded its authority to render this award. Naturally, such an award can only be illegal and invalid. The Tribunal can in no way represent international law, still less equity and justice in the world.

Reporter: How will the award affect China’s dotted line in the South China Sea?

Yang Jiechi: History brooks no distortion and law no abuse. China’s sovereignty, rights and relevant claims in the South China Sea are gradually formed and developed by the practice of the Chinese people throughout millennia and have been upheld by successive Chinese governments. As early as in 1948, the Chinese government marked the dotted line in the South China Sea on its officially published map, which affirmed China’s sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands and maritime rights and interests in their adjacent waters. This is a historical fact beyond any doubt. As a state party to UNCLOS, China is fully entitled to its rights under UNCLOS. China’s claims of rights and interests in the South China Sea long predate the signing of UNCLOS. They shall by no means be denied by UNCLOS, still less by an unwarranted and flawed award. China’ s sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea are protected by both international law and UNCLOS.

Reporter: Given that the award has been rendered, how will China safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea?

Yang Jiechi: The South China Sea, important to the Chinese people since ancient times, is our heritage to which our forefathers devoted their wisdom and even lives. The Chinese government remains unwavering in its resolve to safeguard China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea. The Chinese people do not covet other countries’ interests or envy their development. At the same time, we will never give up our legitimate interests. No country should expect us to trade our core interests away or swallow the bitter consequences of our sovereignty, security and development interests being undermined. The Chinese government and people will remain united and act resolutely to safeguard every inch of our land and every swath of our waters. Read more…

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