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Video Address by State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' Video Meeting

2020-09-09

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh,

Colleagues,

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the EAS. This regional framework is standing at a new historical starting point. Our most pressing task this year is to further build consensus on jointly combating COVID-19, bolster cooperation on reviving growth and safeguard peace and development in the region.

- We need to create new impetus for the battle against COVID-19. Nothing is more important than containing the virus and saving lives. All countries should follow a science-based approach, oppose politicizing the virus, support the role of WHO, intensify health policy communication and anti-epidemic coordination, and work together to build a global community of health for all.

China has engaged in an emergency humanitarian action on a scale unseen in the history of the People's Republic, and has provided assistance of high-demand supplies to over 150 countries and international organizations. This action will continue in light of the needs of other countries.

Going forward, China would like to co-host with Indonesia and Vietnam the EAS Health Experts Meeting on COVID-19 to share latest diagnostic, therapeutic and containment experience. We will expand the coverage of public health programs to enhance our resilience against health risks. China will provide support to the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund and work with ASEAN for the regional reserve of medical supplies for public health emergencies.

The key to COVID-19 response at the current stage is the research and development, production and distribution of vaccines. China is carrying out vaccine cooperation with other regional countries on multiple fronts. We will share the vaccines with other countries through various means as they become available in order to deliver on President Xi Jinping's pledge of making China's vaccines a global public good.

We EAS members should harness our comparative strengths and form a synergy to promote the accessibility and affordability of vaccines and build a strong regional firewall against COVID-19.

- We need to take new steps for economic recovery. Forecast of the International Monetary Fund suggests that East Asia may be the only region achieving positive growth this year. We must work together to make East Asia a stable source of growth in the post-COVID world.

We should pursue open development, especially enhancing scientific and technological cooperation and division of labor, to upgrade our industrial and value chains.

We should stick to free trade, uphold multilateral trading rules, and develop a high-standard regional free trade network.

We should continue to pursue win-win and all-win, and reject zero-sum rivalry to make the pie of cooperation bigger and advance the greatest possible common interests.

China's growth returned to the positive territory in the second quarter of this year. We are fostering a new development architecture with domestic circulation as the mainstay and mutual reinforcement of domestic and international circulations. China will open its door even wider. Its mega-sized domestic market and release of the potential in domestic demand will open up greater space for other countries' cooperation with China and provide a stronger underpinning for regional and global growth.

China suggests releasing a "Statement on Cooperation for Steady Growth of the Regional Economy" at the EAS Summit this year, to galvanize efforts toward signing the RCEP before the end of the year and increase the effectiveness of the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization.

China is ready to work with other regional countries to craft plans for economic recovery and put in place a regional network of "fast tracks" and "green lanes" to facilitate the flow of people and goods and foster an enabling environment for economic development in our region.

- We need to provide firm safeguards for regional peace and stability. East Asia has long maintained a sound development momentum. This is attributable to the fact that our region has an ASEAN-centered East Asian cooperation architecture, promoted the ASEAN Way of consensus building, and developed sound interactions between major countries in the region.

The recent ASEAN foreign ministers' statement on the importance of maintaining regional peace and stability once again reflected the shared desire for peace, development and cooperation.

China, as ASEAN's strategic partner and amicable, close neighbor, will continue to firmly support ASEAN centrality in East Asian cooperation, firmly advance the vision of cooperation for win-win results, and firmly safeguard peace and stability in the region.

EAS members need to follow the shared aspirations of regional countries and respect their legitimate pursuits. EAS members need to uphold multilateralism with East Asian features, adhere to the basic principles for regional cooperation, and make more positive contributions to enduring peace and prosperity in East Asia.

Colleagues,

The South China Sea issue was raised at each EAS Foreign Ministers' Meeting in recent years, and each time, it was certain non-regional countries that would deliberately play the issue up and make waves. I suspect this year would be no exception, and things could go even further this time.

The new development this year is that the United States, motivated by its own political needs, has openly abandoned its promise of not taking sides on disputes over sovereignty and directly interfered in the territorial and maritime disputes in the region.

In the first half of this year alone, the US sent nearly 3,000 sorties of military aircraft and some 60 naval vessels to the South China Sea, including, in many cases, bombers and dual carrier operations.

Repeatedly flexing its muscles, the US has reinforced its military deployment, barging into waters in disputes, disputes to which the US is not a party, and deliberately heightening the risk of regional conflict. Such acts are becoming the biggest factor fueling militarization in the South China Sea.

The US has also been causing disturbances to COC consultations, disrupting the efforts of China and ASEAN countries to resolve disputes through consultation and seeking to pit regional countries against one another.

The purpose of these moves is to destabilize the South China Sea and the larger region to create an excuse for pushing the US Indo-Pacific strategy. These moves neither serve the interests of countries in the region, nor meet the trend of our times. They are becoming the most dangerous factor jeopardizing peace in the South China Sea.

Regarding the various US smears against China's position, I will just lay out a few basic facts here:

First, China's sovereignty and sovereign rights over the South China Sea Islands have solid historical and legal grounds. Under international law, UNCLOS included, the historic rights of countries should be respected. The Chinese government officially published the dotted line in the South China Sea in 1948 to further make clear that the South China Sea Islands are Chinese territory. In July 2016, China published a government statement which clearly set out China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea. China's claims have been consistent. They have not changed, and will not change. They have not expanded, yet nor will they contract.

The allegation that China claims all waters within the dotted line as its internal waters and territorial sea is totally unfounded. It is a deliberate attempt to confuse different concepts and distort China's position.

Second, China follows a policy of pursuing amity and friendship with its neighbors, and has been working to play a constructive role on the South China Sea issue.

As early as in 2002, China signed the DOC with ASEAN countries, committing to resolve disputes by peaceful means, through dialogue and consultation by parties directly concerned, and not to conduct activities that would complicate or escalate the situation, or resort to the threat or use of force. China has all along kept to this shared commitment.

In recent years, China has actively advanced consultations on the COC, taking it as an upgrade of the DOC. We wish to develop a set of substantive and effective rules, to provide a stronger underpinning for peace in the South China Sea.

China has the capability, and the need, to explore oil and gas resources in the South China Sea on its own. However, we have never drilled a single oil well in the disputed waters. Instead, we have persistently called for "pursuing joint development while setting aside disputes". Under this framework, we recognize the energy needs of other littoral states, and are ready to seek win-win and all-win.

China's construction activities on some islands and reefs in the past few years are both to improve the living conditions there, as public goods for the South China Sea, and to meet the need of safeguarding China's own security.

Faced with the rising military pressure from non-regional countries, we certainly have the right of self-preservation as a sovereign state.

Third, China is committed to observing international law, UNCLOS included. China was an important contributor to the conclusion of UNCLOS. After the Convention entered into force, there appeared overlapping claims to maritime rights and interests. We maintain that parties, without prejudice to their positions, seek acceptable solutions through diplomatic dialogue and consultation in accordance with law.

As is known to all, UNCLOS has no jurisdiction over territorial disputes. As for disputes over maritime delimitation, the Chinese government has issued a policy statement in 2006, excluding the disputes from the compulsory dispute settlement procedures under relevant UNCLOS provisions.

China's refusal to accept or participate in an arbitration conducted without the consent of parties concerned is totally justified and has full legal basis.

Peace and stability is China's highest strategic interest in the South China Sea. It is also the common strategic objective of China and ASEAN countries. The South China Sea is not an arena for geopolitics, nor should it become a wrestling ground for major-country rivals. We hope that non-regional countries, the US included, will fully respect the wishes and aspirations of regional countries, instead of being bent on stoking tensions and seeking one's selfish interests.

Colleagues,

Cooperating on cross-border water resources is a global challenge. At the recent Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Leaders' Meeting, China took the initiative and announced that it will share Lancang River's hydrological data for the whole year with Mekong countries starting from this year.

China will also actively engage in cooperation projects on dam safety and flood early warning to enhance the region's capacity for integrated river basin management.

China is working with the Mekong countries to turn the challenge surrounding cross-border water resources into a highlight of transnational cooperation, to serve the well-being of people in the region and contribute to global and regional governance.

On the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, China is committed to the denuclearization of the Peninsula, to peace and stability on the Peninsula and to dialogue and consultation in seeking a resolution.

The situation on the Peninsula is broadly stable. That said, DPRK-US dialogue is still stalled. The crux of the problem is that the US has not responded to the DPRK's legitimate and justified concerns on security and development.

The DPRK and the ROK are the host countries on the Peninsula, and improved relations between the two sides are vitally important.

China supports all remarks and actions that help preserve the momentum of dialogue and de-escalation on the Peninsula, and will continue to play a constructive role in facilitating a political settlement of the Peninsula issue and upholding enduring peace and stability in the region.

On the issue of the Rakhine State, China has all along called for dialogue and consultation between Myanmar and Bangladesh for early repatriation of the displaced persons. China has proposed a three-phase approach to the issue and provided multiple rounds of humanitarian assistance to Myanmar and Bangladesh.

We hope the two sides can overcome the impact of COVID-19 and make early, proper arrangements on the repatriation. China will continue to provide constructive assistance.

Colleagues,

As a leaders-led strategic forum, the EAS is for communication and cooperation at the strategic level. It is not a forum to interfere in other countries' internal affairs, still less should it be an arena for attacks against the political system of others.

Hong Kong and other relevant affairs are China's internal affairs. Non-interference into others' internal affairs is a basic norm governing international relations, and an important provision in the UN Charter. All countries are obligated to observe this principle. In judging a country's political and legal systems, it is the people of the country concerned that have the best say, not the governments or politicians of other countries.

International surveys on public opinion show that the approving rates for China's governing party and the Chinese government by the Chinese people are both high on the global rankings. This is the most powerful rebuttal to the smears and attacks against China.

Colleagues,

Upholding the sound momentum of East Asian cooperation and deepening cooperation against COVID-19 and for development is the call of our times and our historical responsibility.

China is ready to work with all parties for deeper strategic communication, mutual trust and coordination. We hope that the EAS will play an active and constructive role to this end.

Thank you!

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