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Wang Yi: Safeguard Stability and Jointly Overcome the Challenges in the South China Sea

2020-09-03

On September 2, 2020, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China and the National Institute for South China Sea Studies jointly held the 1.5 track virtual international symposium themed "The South China Sea: From the Perspective of Cooperation" in Beijing. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi sent the symposium a message entitled "Working Together to Make the South China Sea a Sea of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation".

Wang Yi said, our world is going through changes unseen in a century. The coronavirus is still spreading in the global sphere. International and regional situations are seeing growing instability and uncertainty. Having a common stake in a peaceful and stable South China Sea, China and ASEAN countries are a natural community with a shared future. In face of a fluid situation, it is particularly important that we address the South China Sea issue with a cool head, and stay firmly on the right course, to preserve the hard-won peace and stability in our region.

Wang Yi said, the past few years have seen sound and rapid progress of China-ASEAN strategic partnership. We have built a cooperation architecture that is all-round, multi-tiered and wide-ranging. China and ASEAN are each other's largest trading partners. The two sides are making steady progress in promoting high-quality Belt and Road cooperation. Two-way trade and investment have continued to grow despite COVID-19 this year. From January to July, trade between China and ASEAN rose by 6.6 percent year-on-year. In the first half of this year, investment between China and Southeast Asian countries jumped by 58.8 percent over last year. Through concerted efforts, China and ASEAN countries have maintained overall stability in the South China Sea. The countries concerned have effectively managed their maritime disputes and steadily carried out dialogue and cooperation on maritime issues. Good progress has been achieved. China and ASEAN countries are committed to the full and effective implementation of the DOC, and have stayed in close touch online to advance consultations on the COC. I am truly happy to see that countries in the region have kept up the momentum of dialogue and cooperation, and made good headway.

Wang Yi expressed, having said that, we must also recognize that there are still risks and challenges, both sensitive and complex, in the South China Sea.

To serve its own geopolitical agenda, certain country outside the region is bent on interfering in the disputes in the South China Sea. It seeks to drive a wedge between regional countries and destabilize the situation. Such moves are highly unpopular, and countries in the region will not fall for them. The South China Sea should not become a tool of certain country for China bashing, still less a wrestling ground for major-country competition.

Wang Yi emphasized, China's biggest strategic interest in the South China Sea is safeguarding its peace and stability. A peaceful and stable South China Sea is also the shared strategic pursuit of China and ASEAN countries. We must work together to meet the challenge and fulfill our due responsibility, as host in the region, for peace and stability in the South China Sea. Over the years, China and ASEAN countries have followed the dual-track approach, and established a set of effective practices in addressing the South China Sea issue. We need to keep them up and carry them on. First, we should continue to let the countries directly concerned resolve their disputes through consultations and negotiations. This is the best way to settle disputes. It is also a serious commitment made by China and ASEAN countries in the DOC. Second, we should conclude the COC at a faster pace. The COC will provide the key to managing differences and maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea. On the COC consultations, China is sincere in its attitude, and firm in resolve. Third, we need to pursue joint development while setting aside disputes. This is a practical way in advancing cooperation. While confirming and granting us rights and interests, UNCLOS and other international laws also clearly define our responsibilities and obligations on cooperation. China will continue to work with other littoral states of the South China Sea for early, substantive progress in joint development, to bring real benefits to our countries and peoples.

The Symposium was attended by H.E. Surakiart Sathirathai, former Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, Mr. Yusuf Wanandi, Co-founder of the Center for Strategic and International Studies of Indonesia and other former politicians, officials and specialists from Russia, United Kingdom, Singapore and other countries.

The participants are of the view that, currently the COVID-19 pandemic is widely spread,unilateralism and trade bullying prevails, the United States openly interferes in the South China Sea,uncertainty is increasing in the region. The participants made proposals that countries in this region to enhance unity and coordination,safeguard stability in the South China Sea and accelerate the process of the COC consultation. They also called on countries outside the region to refrain from creating tensions.

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