Question: The UK Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace commented about the South China Sea issue during his visit to Vietnam. He said that the UK has objected to Chinese claims based on 'nine dash line' and 'offshore archipelagos' concept, and the UK agrees with the findings of the "2016 South China Sea Arbitral Award". He also said that the UK is increasing maritime presence in the Indo-Pacific to uphold the rules-based international order. What is the comment of the Chinese Embassy?
Embassy Spokesperson: These comments by the UK official disregards the historical merits and objective facts of the South China Sea issue, deliberately sows discord among regional countries and thus, undermines regional peace and stability. His statement is extremely irresponsible. China is deeply concerned and firmly opposed to these remarks. China is firm in its determination to defend national sovereignty, security, and development interests, and at the same time will unswervingly maintain friendly and cooperative relations with regional countries and preserve peace and stability in the region.
China's sovereignty, rights and interests in the South China Sea have been formed in the course of a long history and have abundant historical and legal basis. They have been upheld by successive Chinese governments all along and brook no challenge by anyone. We urge the UK side to read history carefully and respect historical facts.
The so-called "arbitral tribunal ruling" on the South China Sea is illegal, null and void. The arbitration violated the "principle of state consent" and the arbitral tribunal exercised its jurisdiction ultra vires and rendered an award in disregard of law. The arbitration is pieced together illegally, with major fallacies in fact-finding and application of law, and violates UNCLOS and other international law. China does not accept and did not participate in the arbitration, nor does it accept or recognize the award. Facts show that the arbitration is a political farce orchestrated and manipulated by the US. We urge the UK side not to dance to the tune of others, or it will shoot itself in the foot.
China firmly upholds and respects international law. China always follows and implements the UNCLOS faithfully and earnestly, and takes concrete action to uphold its authority and integrity. China always advocates friendly negotiations and consultations on issues in relation to the South China Sea, treats our littoral neighbors as equals and exercises maximum restraint when safeguarding our sovereignty, rights and interests in the South China Sea. In contrast, the UK claims to uphold "rules-based international order" but its cherry-picking of rules of international law reveals a typical practice of hypocrisy and double standards.
The South China Sea has some of the busiest sea lanes in the world and it is the lifeline of China's maritime trade. With the joint efforts of countries in the region including China, passage through the South China Sea has been smooth and safe all along. The allegation that "freedom of navigation is under threat" in the South China Sea is simply untenable. If indeed this allegation is true, the threat could only come from the one who deploys carrier strike group to the South China Sea half a world away and flexes its naval muscles to heighten the military tension in that region.
"Gunboat diplomacy" no longer works in the 21st century. As a country outside the region, the UK should refrain from stretching its arms too far. China urges the UK to abide by international law underpinned by the UN Charter, respect China's sovereignty and rights and interests in the South China Sea, stop making provocations, and stop undermining peace and stability in that region so as to avoid further disruptions to China-UK relations.