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Full Text: SCIO briefing on South China Sea disputes


Liu Zhenmin, vice foreign minister


Guo Weimin, vice minister of State Council Information Office


July 13, 2016

Guo Weimin:

Ladies, gentlemen and friends from the media: Good morning! Welcome to today's press conference.

On July 12, the arbitral tribunal announced its ruling on the South China Sea arbitration established at the unilateral request of the Philippines. Chinese leaders have said China will not accept any proposition or action based on the decision. The Chinese government published a statement to reaffirm China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea. China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement on the ruling, solemnly declaring that the award is null and void and has no binding force, and that China neither accepts nor recognizes it. Chinese government's stance has won wide support both from home and abroad.

Today, the State Council Information Office (SCIO) published a 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," which thoroughly elaborates Chinese government's stance and policy on the South China Sea dispute. Here, we have invited Mr. Liu Zhenmin, vice foreign minister, to elaborate on the white paper and answer your questions.

First of all, please allow me to give you a brief introduction about the white paper. The 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," consists of five parts.

The first part talks about Nanhai Zhudao as China's inherent territory. China's sovereignty over Nanhai Zhudao has been established in the course of history. 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. The Philippines' invasion and illegal occupation caused disputes with China over some islands and reefs of Nansha Qundao. The Philippines' illegal claim has no historical or legal basis. The development of international maritime law gave rise to the disputes between China and the Philippines over maritime delimitation.

The third part covers the consensus reached by China and the Philippines on settling their relevant disputes in the South China Sea. It is the consensus and commitment of China and the Philippines to settle their relevant disputes in the South China Sea through negotiation. It is the consensus of China and the Philippines to properly manage relevant disputes in the South China Sea.

The fourth part talks about the moves taken by the Philippines that complicate the relevant disputes and the Philippines' attempts to entrench its illegal occupation of some islands and reefs of China's Nansha Qundao. The Philippines has increasingly intensified its infringement of China's maritime rights and interests. The Philippines also has territorial pretensions on China's Huangyan Dao. The Philippines' unilateral initiation of arbitration is an act of bad faith.

The fifth part details China's policy on the South China Sea issue, including territorial issues concerning Nansha Qundao, maritime delimitation in the South China Sea, ways and means of dispute settlement, managing differences and engaging in practical maritime cooperation in the South China Sea with regards to freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea, and the joint upholding of peace and stability in the South China Sea.

The white paper, consisting of more than 20,000 Chinese characters, has already been published in different languages, including Chinese, English, Russian, French, Germany, Spanish, Japanese, Arabic and Portugal. The Chinese and foreign language versions will be printed by the People's Publishing House and Foreign Languages Press, respectively, and will be on sale in Xinhua Bookstore all over the country.

The Chinese people have lived and engaged in production activities on Nanhai Zhudao and in relevant waters since ancient times. Chinese people have called the South China Sea their "forefather's sea." The South China Sea arbitration is actually a political farce presented as a legal issue. The rulings announced by it are null and void and have no binding force and can't change the reality that the Nanhai Zhudao belong to China nor deny China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea. The farce won't make any wave in Chinese people's "forefather's sea." China holds steadfast determination to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and related rights in the South China Sea.

Now, please welcome Mr. Liu to give us more details.

Liu Zhenmin:

Friends from the press, welcome to today's launch of the white paper. Just now, Mr. Guo Weimin briefed everyone on the general idea of this white paper. Launching this white paper is an important step that the Chinese government is taking in response to the Philippines-led arbitration regarding the South China Sea.

The white paper contains five parts, as Mr. Guo said just now. I'd like to give you a systematic introduction of the five parts along with the content.

1. Nanhai Zhudao are China's Inherent Territory.

Chinese people have been conducting activities in the South China Sea for more than 2,000 years. China is the earliest country to have discovered and named the Nanhai Zhudao (the South China Sea Islands), the earliest to have explored and exploited the South China Sea along with the islands and reefs in it, and the earliest to have continuously, peacefully and effectively exercised sovereignty and jurisdiction over them. China's sovereignty over the Nanhai Zhudao along with its various rights and interests were established by the gradual development of history.

Japan once illegally occupied the Nanhai Zhudao during World War II, but returned the stolen territory to China after the war ended, as per the demands of post-war documents, including the Cairo Declaration and Potsdam Proclamation. Therefore, after World War II, China recovered Taiwan, Penghu, Xisha Qundao (Xisha Islands) and Nansha Qundao (Nansha Islands) among other territories that originally belonged to China. After resuming sovereignty over the Nanhai Zhudao, China marked off the South China Sea on the map with the dotted line and announced it to the world in 1948. Therefore, the dotted line dates from 1948.

After the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, China took a further step to preserve its sovereignty over the Nanhai Zhudao and its rights in the South China Sea. China's patrols, law enforcement activities, resource explorations and scientific expeditions around the Nanhai Zhudao and their adjacent waters have never been halted. It's common knowledge in the post-WWII international society that the Nanhai Zhudao belong to China, and this knowledge constitutes the postwar territorial arrangements and international order. In the post-WWII era, many countries' encyclopedias, yearbooks and maps all document Nansha Qundao as part of China's territory.

2. The core of the relevant disputes between China and the Philippines lies in the territorial issues caused by the Philippines' invasion and illegal occupation of some islands and reefs of China's Nansha Qundao.

Since the 1970s, the Philippines started invading and illegally occupying some of the islands and reefs of the Nansha Qundao by military means, and hence raised illegal territorial demands. In an attempt to cover the illegal encroachment of a number of islands and reefs of the Nansha Qundao so as to realize its ambition for territorial expansion, the Philippines fabricated a series of excuses.

But from the perspective of history and international law, the Philippines' claims are absolutely invalid; its illegal territorial demands and fabricated excuses cannot change the basic fact that the Nansha Qundao is part of China's territory.

In addition, with the introduction and development of the new international law of the sea, China and the Philippines have disputes over maritime delimitation for certain sea area of the South China Sea. These disputes should be settled through negotiation.

3. The white paper intends to illustrate that China has been making tireless efforts to peacefully solve the China-Philippines disputes in the South China Sea, and that China has reached a series of important multilateral and bilateral agreements with successive Philippine governments before the Benigno S. Aquino III administration – that is from the Ferdinand Marcos administration to the Aquino III administration – on peacefully solving the disputes in the South China Sea through talks and negotiations, managing and controlling maritime differences, and advancing practical maritime cooperation.

On the bilateral front, the two parties agreed to solve the relevant disputes through negotiations while exercising restraint, and not to take any actions that will lead to the escalation of the situation. The two parties insisted on advancing the practical maritime cooperation and joint exploration, and not to have the relevant disputes affect the healthy development of bilateral ties or the peace and stability of the South China Sea region.

On the regional multilateral front, China signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in 2002; China and the Philippines jointly agreed that the relevant disputes shall be settled through talks and negotiations.

4. In recent years, the Philippines breached the bilateral agreements, and kept taking actions to complicate and escalate the disputes. The Philippines is the instigator of conflict.

The Philippines built military facilities on some islands and reefs it has invaded and illegally occupied in the Nansha Qundao, raised territorial demands for the Huangyan Dao, sent military ships to harass Chinese fishermen and Chinese fishing boats, and conducted unilateral explorations of oil and gas in waters under China's jurisdiction.

The former Philippine government unilaterally initiated the arbitration on the South China Sea. The move breached the China-Philippines bilateral agreement on solving disputes through talks and negotiations, violated the stipulation in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the limitation of arbitration procedures, and violated China's rights as a member state to the UNCLOS to choose independently a means to settle disputes.

The Philippines is abusing the UNCLOS procedures for dispute settlement, fabricating facts and telling lies, attempting to take the opportunity to fully deny China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea.

5. China is an important force for maintaining the peace and stability in the South China Sea.

China has been resolute in upholding its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea, and at the same time has insisted on settling disputes through talks and negotiations, insisted on controlling disputes through regulations and mechanisms, insisted on achieving win-win results through mutually beneficial cooperation, and is dedicated to making the South China Sea a region of peace, friendship and cooperation.

Finally, I wish to emphasize that the arbitration case was initiated unilaterally by the former government of the Republic of the Philippines. It violated the China-Philippines bilateral agreement, the multilateral consensus among regional countries and international law, so it is doomed to be abandoned.

China has noticed that the current Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte and the new Philippine government have assumed a positive stance regarding the South China Sea arbitration, expressing a willingness to conduct talks and negotiations with China on the South China Sea issue. China welcomes this. China is willing to make joint efforts with the new Philippine government to properly handle the South China Sea issue, and push China-Philippines relations back on track.

China has confidence in the future of China-Philippines relations!

This is all for my introduction. Now I'd like to take your questions.

Guo Weimin:

Thank you, Mr. Liu. Now it's time for questions. May I kindly remind you to inform us of what media outlet you represent before asking your question?


We have seen that after the ruling came out, some countries said the arbitration award is effective and legally binding for both China and the Philippines. I would ask if China doesn't comply with the ruling, these countries would see it as "breaking international law and China will have international reputational cost;" how will China comment on this?

Liu Zhenmin:

Regarding whether the arbitration ruling is legally binding, the Chinese government has stated their position, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also stated the position; the award has no legal binding, it is void and illegal, and China will not recognize or enforce it. Why is that? In the statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the white paper issued today, there are systematical elaborations. Today, I wanted to stress the question whether the arbitration tribunal is a legal international court and my purpose is to tear down the veil of the tribunal.

First, this arbitral tribunal is not an international court, which has nothing to do with the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN) in The Hague, Netherlands. It has a certain relationship with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg but is not part of the Tribunal. The arbitral tribunal was just using the secretary services and the facilities of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), an organizer of arbitral tribunals. It is absolutely not the International Court of Justice, everyone please take note.

Second, this arbitral tribunal's composition is actually the result of a political manipulation. The particular tribunal panel consists of five arbitrators. Except for Judge Rüdiger Wolfrum who was appointed by the Philippines, the other four were appointed by the then president of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea Shunji Yanai. And who is Shunji Yanai? He is a judge of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the former Japanese ambassador to the United States and also the one to help Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lift the ban on collective self-defense, challenging the international order formed after World War II. According to various sources, the composition of the tribunal was totally manipulated by him, who later continued exerting his influence during the arbitral tribunal's proceedings.

Third, there are big problems in the tribunal's composition. As you can see, there are five arbitrators. Four of them are from Europe: one is from Germany, one from France, one from the Netherlands and one from Poland. They are all members of the EU. Another judge is from Ghana, former President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, but he lived in Europe for a long time. Can such a tribunal represent anything? Do they know about Asian culture? Do they know about the South China Sea issues? This is the problem that the international community is paying great attention to in past decades. When the United Nations Charter was signed in 1945 and when the UNCLOS was made, one provision asserts that the international court's composition must represent the world's major cultures and major legal systems. When ITLOS was created, there was also such a requirement. Why? This is to make sure the courts will be representative and authoritative. The International Court of Justice has Chinese judges, ITLOS has Chinese judges and even the PCA has Chinese arbitrators. I'm one of the four Chinese arbitrators in the PCA. But this arbitral tribunal has not a single arbitrator from Asia at all, not to mention from China. Do they know Asia? Do they know Asian culture? Do they know the South China Sea issue? Do they know the complicated geopolitics in Asia? Do they know the history of the South China Sea? On what basis can they make a fair award?

Fourth, there's something interesting in the proceedings of the arbitral tribunal, which shocked the international legal community. Some judges held the opinion that made people believe they will maintain China's interests. But during the proceedings, they turned their backs on the academic opinions they once held on to. They had their opinions and standpoints, which altered when they wrote academic papers, different from when they were at the arbitral tribunal. Did they ever have a firm standpoint? Such things also happened to the witnesses used by the arbitral tribunal. One witness said in his writings that Nansha Qundao has at least 12 ocean areas that can be defined as islands, which will claim 200 nautical miles of exclusive economic zone. But when he stood as a witness in the tribunal, he said that there was no such terrain. What an expert! Pathetically, the tribunal didn't do any investigation, and didn't do any examination but choose to believe his suggestions. Who supported this tribunal? They went there to make money. Who gave orders to them? Who paid them? It was the Philippines or some other countries. This system is totally different from the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.

The judges of the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea receive their salaries and compensations from the United Nations, to ensure their independence and impartiality. But these five judges of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) are doing it for a profit, and their payments come from the Philippines and probably others, too. We are unsure about the details but they do provide paid services.

That is to say, this case was the first of its kind that led to the establishment of the temporary arbitration tribunal in self-alleged accordance of the Annex VII of UNCLOS. But the operation of this tribunal has exceeded the expectations and anticipations of those who drafted this convention, setting a very bad example. I said this last year that this arbitration case would become an infamous case in the history of international laws.

The performance of this arbitration tribunal also showed that a forced arbitration can hardly be successful; therefore, this arbitration tribunal is a failure. Therefore, could any verdict ruled by this arbitration tribunal carry any validity or credibility? Could it be fair? Some countries say that this verdict has binding power so that the involved parties should implement it. This is a sheer lie. Who would enforce a verdict that has no credibility?

Guo Weimin:

From the content of the decision, the process of the arbitration and the timing of issuing the award, we can tell that the arbitration is not credible. Also, the Filipino government was said to have paid for the arbitration, while China made a declaration of optional exceptions in compliance with the law. All these factors indicated that the arbitration has no credibility at all. Now, let's move on to the next question.


What are China's next steps going to be? Will China send more military equipment to the South China Sea? And will it declare an Air Defense Identification Zone for the South China Sea? Thank you.

Liu Zhenmin:

It is legitimate for the Chinese navy to launch maritime activities in the South China Sea because the area belongs to China. But we all know that a certain country has dispatched a huge aircraft carrier fleet to the South China Sea. It is up to you to make a judgment. After the arbitration, the Chinese government has shown a clear standpoint that China will in no way observe the tribunal's award, because it is merely a pile of invalid papers which will never be observed. I kindly advise you to throw the papers concerning the arbitration into the rubbish bin, put them aside on book shelves, or put them in the archives. The disputes will eventually have to return to the table for negotiations and China hopes the Philippines to return to the track of bilateral negotiations.

As we have seen, "China Adheres to the Position of Settling Through Negotiation the Relevant Disputes Between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea" is the subject of the whitepaper. It is also the policy of the Chinese government. We hope to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea and guarantee freedom of navigation and overflight in accordance with "the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea" signed by China and the 10 ASEAN members. The policy has not changed and will not change. When speaking on whether China will declare an Air Defense Identification Zone, we should make it clear that China has the right to do so. The practice of declaring an Air Defense Identification Zone is not invented by China, but by some other major countries. We have declared one in the East China Sea. Whether we will declare one in the South China Sea depends on the severity of the threat we face. We are sure to have the right to declare one if our security is threatened. It is our overall calculation to decide whether we will have one. We hope that no other countries in the world will take the opportunity to threaten China. We are expecting the rest of the world to make concerted efforts with China to jointly maintain the peace and stability in the South China Sea to prevent it from becoming a combustible source for the breakout of wars. Our goal is to make South China Sea a place of peace, friendship and cooperation.

People's Daily:

Why did China issue a white paper particularly focusing on the disputes in the South China Sea between China and the Philippines? What message do you expect to transmit through the white paper?

Liu Zhenmin:

The white paper issued by the Chinese government is intended to convey several messages and state clearly several points of views. Firstly, we would like to clarify some facts. Many facts were twisted and many legal principles were misinterpreted by the then Philippine government in its submissions when it initiated the arbitration three and half years ago. When the arbitration tribunal heard the case, it also distorted many facts, including the distortion of law application. Therefore, our first purpose in issuing the white paper is to clarify facts, including making it explicit that China's sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea are established in the course of history, not entirely by the UNCLOS.

Secondly, China and the Philippines had agreement on resolving through negotiation and consultation the relevant disputes. Resolving relevant disputes through negotiation is the only way out; it shows China's policy. China hopes to send a positive signal to the international community, other littoral countries around the South China Sea and especially the Philippines that negotiation is the only way to solve the disputes between China and the Philippines as well as other disputes in the South China Sea. There are no other options. Don't expect the arbitral tribunal to solve the disputes. I therefore advise all of you to read the white paper carefully.

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC):

You talked [about] the need for agreements 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 we need a direct country-to-country agreement or something like that? What's the mechanism by which China can share the resources of the South China Sea with other nations, if it is prepared to do so?

Liu Zhenmin:

Since we signed UNCLOS in 1982, China and other littoral countries around the South China Sea have ratified the convention one after another. Disputes in the area have emerged since then. In order to address such disputes, China has established channels for bilateral negotiation with these countries. For instance, we have negotiated with Vietnam on maritime delimitation. After years of efforts, we signed with Vietnam in 2000 the Delimitation of Maritime Boundary in the Beibu Gulf and Management of Fishing Activity in the Beibu Gulf. And we have had effective cooperation in the negotiation of borders, joint development and fields of low sensitivity; particularly, the method for delimitation of maritime boundaries in the waters beyond the mouth of the Beibu Gulf has been in effective operation. We also signed an agreement in 2011 with Vietnam on the guiding principles of resolving maritime issues. China and the Philippines have maintained bilateral communication since 1996, including with regards to fishing and confidence-building measures. During the administration of former Philippine President Arroyo, China and the Philippines carried out cooperation on maritime seismic research in the disputed area, which was later joined by Vietnam. We expected to move it to the next stage after the three-party cooperation, but it was halted when the Philippines altered its stance after a leadership change.

China has maintained bilateral communication and cooperation with Malaysia and Brunei. In fact, China and other littoral countries around the South China Sea are aware of the complexity of settling the disputes. It cannot be resolved within a short period of time, thus we've been exploring ways to cooperate. China was the first country to put forward the principle of "joint development while shelving disputes," which it still maintains to this day. The cooperation between China and the Philippines was only stopped when the government led by Benigno Aquino III took the issue to the tribunal. As I've said, the award is null and void and will not be enforced. I hope that we'll go back to the negotiating table to resolve disputes and return to the path of cooperation to share our common interests.

I believe that China and other littoral countries around the South China Sea can reach agreements whether it is on fishing or oil and gas resources. This is the position consistently upheld by the Chinese government and we are sure of that.

Takungpao and Weiweipo of Hong Kong:

Some have said that according to Item 4 of Article 288 of UNCLOS, the arbitral tribunal can decide whether it has jurisdiction on the arbitration case, while China believes that the arbitral tribunal is not entitled to do so in the disputes between China and the Philippines. What is your take on this? Thank you.

Liu Zhenmin:

Some have indeed said that, including some judges on the arbitral tribunal, but this is an example of abuse of UNCLOS and power by the tribunal. Why is that? The disputes settlement procedure stipulated in Part XV of UNCLOS is an integral system and should not be read as a separate part. First, the arbitral tribunal should be aware that disputes of territorial sovereignty do not fall within UNCLOS, but are subject to traditional international law. Second, according to Article 298 of UNCLOS, countries are entitled to exclude maritime delimitation from compulsory procedures, and China has done so. If someone wants to exploit the compulsory procedures, the case should be heard under the relevant articles of UNCLOS. Article 280 and 281 should be taken into account, which means that we should first and foremost see whether the involved countries have reached agreements on resolving the disputes. China and the Philippines have already had a number of statements and agreements which require us to solve disputes through negotiation. The arbitral tribunal has not taken these agreements into account and has not applied Article 280 and 281 properly.

Unfortunately the arbitral tribunal has not figured that out. The tribunal has missed facts and due procedures while insisting on arbitration based on Item 4 of Article 288. This is a complete abuse of the legal procedure and UNCLOS and a dismissal of China's rights. The arbitral tribunal has not followed the due procedures required by UNCLOS, therefore the tribunal lacks credibility. It is not reasonable to say you have the right to do something when the laws have stipulated both the rights and duties. Rights and obligations are unified and should be exercised in accordance with each other. The arbitral tribunal wanted to perform its right without fulfilling its obligations when exercising the so-called jurisdiction.

Guo Weimin:

Recently we talked to some experts in international maritime law, who expressed the same opinions. You've definitely read media reports where people, including senior maritime law experts in The Hague, argue that the tribunal has set a bad precedent in arbitration which it did not have the right to undertake in the first place. You can read about these reports. Now the next question.

Shenzhen TV:

The public opinion now is that the ruling on the South China Sea arbitration is nothing more than a piece of waste paper. However, if relevant countries actually followed what is said on this piece of waste paper, how would China react, Minister Liu?

Liu Zhenmin:

As a principle in international law states, "Ex injuria jus non oritur," i.e., a legal right or entitlement cannot arise from an unlawful act. According to that, any verdict which is null and void will be impossible to execute nor have any binding force. The ruling here, which is nothing more than a piece of waste paper, will not be enforced by anyone either. I think the relevant littoral countries around the South China Sea and those countries outside the South China Sea should be aware of this. Therefore, any country that would like to carry out their activities according to the ruling will be committing new illegal acts, and the Chinese government will take the necessary measures to stop them. We hope that all countries' activities, conduct and claims in the South China Sea will return to the state they were in before the arbitration award. We should settle disputes through negotiation and manage disputes and share benefits through cooperation. This ruling cannot be enforced. Thank you.

Guo Weimin:

Many foreign senior government officials, including those who support and encourage the arbitration, also believe that the award will not be effective. They've expressed their thoughts on different occasions, wishing China to exercise restraint and expecting the issue to end there. In fact, it is widely accepted that the ruling is nothing more than a piece of waste paper and that it will have no legal effect and cannot be enforced. Now you may continue to ask questions.


You have just mentioned that the white paper focuses on settling disputes through negotiation with the Philippines. Now, the ruling of the arbitration initiated by the Philippines has been rendered. Although China does not recognize, enforce or accept it, the opinions stated by the Philippines have received support from the ruling. My question is: For China, would it be a precondition for the resumption of negotiations that the Philippines should also not accept the ruling? If negotiations were resumed would the issues about sovereignty be absolutely avoided? While China firmly upholds its sovereignty over Nanhai Zhudao and relevant waters, the ruling concluded that China has violated the Philippines' sovereign rights in some respects. Thank you.

Liu Zhenmin:

Some issues need to be solved through negotiation, while others may be shelved during negotiation. Now, the question we are facing is how to negotiate and whether we can return to the negotiation table. China expects the new Filipino government to cooperate and recognize that the ruling is nothing more than a piece of waste paper and cannot be enforced. China hopes that the Filipino side will set aside the award and return to the negotiation table. According to the basic principle of negotiation among countries, the two sides should resume negotiation based on respect for historical facts and in accordance with international law. For years, China and ASEAN countries have been following this principle for bilateral negotiation. Therefore, China and the Philippines will not negotiate based on the ruling. China will not allow any negotiation based on the ruling. We have to make it clear that the focus of our white paper is to "adhere to the position of settling through negotiation the relevant disputes between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea," that is, to leave aside the arbitration ruling and return to the negotiation table. The ruling cannot settle the disputes. Don't expect to settle the disputes through negotiation based on the ruling. We hope that the friends of the Philippines will realize it, and will support our position, not to encourage the Philippines to enforce the ruling. If they do so, it would further escalate tensions among the littoral countries around the South China Sea and the Southeast Asian countries.

Guo Weimin:

This question gives us a clear view of what effects the arbitration has had. First, it has no credibility; second, it adds difficulty to solving the issue. Hence, the arbitration makes no sense.

China Daily:

We've noted that recently some ASEAN countries have clearly claimed their objection towards the South China Sea arbitration; how shall we treat China-ASEAN relations in the post-arbitration era?

Liu Zhenmin:

Firstly, the South China Sea dispute involves China and a number of ASEAN countries, rather than all of them. The so-called claimant states are just a few, while ASEAN has ten member states. But to be frank, the existing dispute will more or less affect China-ASEAN relations and cooperation. However, on the basis of China's policy and willingness, we hope that China-ASEAN cooperation will not be influenced and it is what we have expected and made efforts to achieve. So over the past three years or more, we have proactively promoted China-ASEAN cooperation in the process of dealing with the Philippines arbitration case.

When attending the China-ASEAN Summit in 2013, Premier Li Keqiang proposed the 2+7 cooperation framework, which is under implementation now. President Xi Jinping put forward the initiative of "building up the China-ASEAN community of a shared future" when he paid visits to Southeast Asia. Generally, the cooperation remains stable but is undergoing some disturbance. We insist that the South China Sea issue should be addressed under the framework of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) by China and involved ASEAN countries through negotiation, so as to safeguard the peace and stability of the South China Sea. What counts most is to seek cooperation between China and ASEAN countries, as China is ASEAN's largest trade partner and ASEAN is China's third largest trade partner. In the past 25 years, especially the past 10 years, we have witnessed the rapid development of China-ASEAN cooperation, which has yielded win-win results. We hope that China's development can help drive the economy of all ASEAN countries.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of China-ASEAN dialogue relations and a related summit will be held in the presiding country of Laos in Vientiane this September. China and ASEAN state leaders will attend the summit and we hope that the cooperation can be enhanced and deepened through the meeting and the South China Sea issue will not become an impediment. That is why the Chinese government is upholding that the South China Sea issue should be resolved through the process of the DOC and shall not impede bilateral cooperation. We hope that ASEAN countries will work together with China towards this destination.

China National Radio:

One viewpoint is that the arbitration award can help claim the point of each party and narrow differences, and will become a basis for resolving the dispute through diplomatic means. What do you think about this?

Liu Zhenmin:

Over the past three years, we have reiterated that the arbitral tribunal has no jurisdiction and the award has no binding force and is illegal, null and void. How can such an unjust, null and void award become a basis for narrowing differences? As we see that the arbitration was made to deny China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea and to legalize the Philippines' own propositions and actions, it is an extreme and unjust award. How can it help narrow the difference and claim the points of related parties? So, I hold that it is impossible for the extreme, unjust and illegal arbitration to become a basis for narrowing the difference. The basis should be that all parties pay respect to historical facts and international laws. How can we resolve the issue? We need to resort to negotiation, which can truly help narrow the difference and yield positive results. That is China's consistent policy and what we have practiced with success. We have delimited land boundary with 12 of 14 neighboring countries, and this requires a process since both the parties involved had conflicting claims at the beginning. We marked off the maritime boundary of the Beibu Gulf with Vietnam, which was a process of narrowing differences. Therefore, narrowing differences and clarifying claims should be carried out on the platform of negotiation, on the basis of respecting historical facts and acting according to international law. There is no other way. Thank you.

Phoenix TV:

Back to the relationship between China and the Philippines, the new president of the Philippines has made some remarks after taking office, most notably a few positive remarks on China-Philippine relations. How does China evaluate these comments from Duterte after the arbitration? And how will the arbitration impact China-Philippine relations? Thank you.

Liu Zhenmin:

The Philippines and China are neighbors across the sea. The two countries have a thousand years of friendly relations. The two countries have many similarities in traditional culture even though the Philippines is a Catholic country. When the Philippines suffers from natural disasters, China will be affected the next day. Taking typhoons for example, the Philippines faces typhoons 3 to 25 times each year, the typhoons hit Taiwan and the southeast coast of China the next day. In a certain sense, the destiny of China and the Philippines is bound together. In the face of natural disasters, we are acommunity of shared destiny. China and the Philippines established diplomatic relations in 1975. Ever since then, bilateral relations have been developing steadily despite the leadership transition in the Philippines. So, we do not understand why the government of former Philippine President Benigno Aquino III filed the arbitration against China in 2013, which is a violation of China's sovereignty. In fact, he visited China soon after he came to power. So, we do not understand such behavior. In my opinion, fortunately the Philippine leadership has changed after the election, which provides a good opportunity for the China-Philippine relations to become improved.

I have just talked about that. In fact, our Minister Wang Yi also mentioned that China welcomes the positive attitude and posture of President Duterte and his government on the South China Sea issue and on the arbitration. We hope that China and the Philippines can return to the track of negotiations to resolve the South China Sea dispute, and push for a turnabout of the situation and create more favorable conditions for closer cooperation. I believe that everything will be fine after the rainy days of the arbitration. And we hope the day to come soon. However, we need to wait for the day to come. We have the patience and confidence for it. I think that cooperation between China and the Philippines will bring the two peoples, especially the Filipinos, tangible benefits. It will help contribute to China-ASEAN cooperation, to peace and stability in South-East Asia, in the South China Sea and cooperation in the South China Sea. Thank you.

Guo Weimin:

I should like to add that I very much agree with Vice Minister Liu's comment and presentation. I headed a delegation to the Philippines this March and attended the conference of the ASEAN Plus Three Ministers Responsible for Information (AMRI+3). I met a number of Filipino officials and ordinary people there. I feel deeply that China and the Philippines enjoy a traditional friendship and there's strong basis for developing friendly and cooperative relations. Now, every year there are a large number of Chinese tourists that travel to the Philippines and the Filipino people have friendly feelings towards Chinese people. The arbitration filed by the government of former Philippine President Benigno Aquino III was actually manipulated by minor political forces and a number of countries. It is treachery. The wrong decision was made in total disregard of the overall situation of China-Philippine relations and has been met with a lot of opposition from both Filipino officials and ordinary people. During my visit, they took a very unhappy and critical attitude towards the government of former Philippine President Benigno Aquino III. They also hope that China and the Philippines could strengthen friendly cooperation. So, what Minister Liu just said, we very much hope that the new government will take a holistic approach to promote the development of China-Philippine friendly relations. We hope that China and the Philippines work together to meet each other halfway. Thank you.

Xinhua News Agency:

My question is for Mr. Liu. We noticed that in 2006 China made a declaration on optional exceptions in compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). However, the tribunal said that the declaration wouldn't affect its jurisdiction. What impact will this claim make on other countries that also made similar optional exception declarations?

Liu Zhenmin:

During the negotiation and preparation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) before 1982, those who participated in the issue made a very wise decision to write a clause saying that when a member state signs, ratifies or accedes to the UNCLOS, it can declare under Article 298 that it does not accept compulsory procedures relating to disputes over sea boundary delimitations, military activities, law enforcement activities and many other issues. Why did they write the clause? Because the aim of the UNCLOS is maintaining international sea order. How to maintain the order? In international law, there is no such idea as a "world police." It's not like a country where there are legislative organs, law enforcement organs and government organs. In the field of international law, there is no "world police," so many issues have to be addressed through negotiation on the basis of mutual respect. It has been accepted that disputes over sea boundary delimitations should be settled by a common consensus reached by the countries concerned. Therefore, Article 298 was created for the purpose of maintaining a stable international sea order and maintaining stable relations between various countries. This is a requirement of both the global reality and international laws.

After the UNCLOS entered into force in 1994, more than 30 countries have issued such declarations, including four permanent members of the Security Council, namely Russia, France, Britain and China. The only exception is the United States, which has never verified the UNCLOS. It has remained outside the UNCLOS while at the same time trying to dictate what other people should do.

The 30 plus countries that have joined in the UNCLOS are also very concerned about the arbitration award because the award not only infringes on China's rights but also the effectiveness of Articles 298 and,to some extent, on the integrity of the UNCLOS and the rules for applying dispute settlement procedures established by the UNCLOS. I advise you to read chapter 15 of the UNCLOS carefully. Those articles should not be viewed separately or individually. No one should make decisions based on one paragraph or article alone. It is an integral system. This ruling is an injustice in that it has been decided according to only one article. It thinks it has the authority, however, to forget that the UNCLOS is systematic. In my opinion, the ruling has not just violated China's rights but has undermined the authority and integrity of the UNCLOS and the system the Articles 298 established. I believe there will be more countries in the future who support the proper settlement of the problem. Thank you.

China Review News Agency (CRNA):

We have noticed that while the Chinese mainland was trying to safeguard territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea, the Taiwan authorities issued a statement yesterday asserting rights of the territory under international laws and laws of the sea and dismissing the tribunal's decision as not legally binding. What's your response to the statement? What can the two sides across the Taiwan Strait do in the future to safeguard the South China Sea? Thank you.

Liu Zhenmin:

Yesterday, the Taiwan authorities have made it clear that it is opposed to the decision because it encroaches upon the rights of all Chinese people. It is the common duty of people across the Taiwan Strait to safeguard the territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea, because this is our territory. The current separation between the two sides across the Strait is caused by historical reasons, but we will reunite sooner or later. So far as the South China Sea is concerned, the two sides have reached a consensus that it is our common duty to safeguard it. There has been extensive communication regarding international law across the Strait. I'm sure the consensus won't change, and I hope we can work hand in hand with our compatriots in Taiwan to safeguard our territory. Thank you.

Dragon TV:

Mr. Liu, has China planned any actions if the Philippines refuses to resume negotiation? Thank you.

Liu Zhenmin:

The relations between two countries are like a marriage. The two sides must try to approach each other. I think the relations between China and the Philippines will definitely be affected if the Philippines is unwilling to sit down and talk, and the current situation will remain hard to change. That's why in the past three years many government officials and common people in the Philippines have been aware that if negotiation is not resumed it will leave a long-lasting impact on Chinese-Filipino relations. Thank you.

Guo Weimin:

It's like the arbitration. What's the point in this? What will it bring to the Philippines and its people? Will it do any good to the peace and stability of Southeast Asia and the region? One must have a clear understanding of the whole situation. Now, let's move on to the last question.

China News Service:

My question is after the award being rendered by the arbitrational tribunal, what's China's view of the role of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC)? Will consultations on a "Code of Conduct" (COC) in the South China Sea be suspended?

Liu Zhenmin:

Unfortunately, the arbitration tribunal denied the DOC's legal effect during the process of hearing, especially the Article 4 which stated that the parties concerned undertake to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, "through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned." There are some papers from the Chinese Society of International Law rejecting the arbitration tribunal's interpretation of the DOC. This denial of the legal effect of DOC and the country's commitment in the DOC goes against the international practice and the basic principles uphold by the International Court of Justice. This award has caused attention and concern from China and ASEAN countries on DOC.

In the past two years, China has made efforts to communicate with ASEAN countries, and we hope those countries won't abandon the DOC because of the arbitration. ASEAN countries reaffirmed that the DOC is still the regional regulation among China and ASEAN countries when solving the South China Sea issue. I have been in charge of the DOC and COC's negotiation and implementation during the past five years. We can say that all the negotiation on the DOC and COC are moving forward. All the ASEAN countries promised that the DOC won't be affected, since the DOC was signed by foreign ministers from 11 countries. A signed declaration must have effective force. We will, together with ASEAN countries, promote the implementation of the DOC and consultation on the COC, and work for the early conclusion of COC on the basis of consensus building. Thank you.

Guo Weimin:

Finally, I have one more opinion to share. Some people say that the announcement of the arbitration will make China isolated, but I don't think this situation will arise. Such intention will not be realized. We, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and other departments have released some information which shows, to our knowledge, that the governments of more than 70 countries from across the world have expressed their support for the Chinese government, in addition to the support from more than 230 political parties in over 90 countries.

Many media friends, think tank experts and scholars that we keep in contact with have expressed in various ways their support for the Chinese government. A number of media friends said they wish to better understand the detailed information. I think that if they need it, we would like to provide more with detailed materials regarding this issue at a proper time.

This is the end of today's conference. Thank you, Mr. Vice Minister Liu Zhenmin, and thank you all!

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