China open to discussion on South China Sea code

Updated: 2012-07-13 17:21

By Zhao Shengnan (

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China is open to launching discussions on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, but calls for all parties to exercise self-restraint in keeping with the spirit of previous declarations and United Nation conventions.

China hopes that all parties will do more to enhance mutual trust, promote cooperation, and create the necessary conditions for the formulation of the code, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said on July 12.

"What is essential is that all parties exercise self-restraint in keeping with the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and refrain from taking moves that will escalate and complicate the disputes and affect peace and stability," he told the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum's Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Yang said that China's sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and adjacent waters is supported by ample historical and legal evidence. However, given the complexity of the South China Sea issue, China has always called for shelving disputes and seeking joint development.

An important principle of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties is to let sovereign states directly concerned resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means through friendly consultations and negotiations, Yang said.

Meanwhile, Yang said that China is a party to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and places importance on upholding the principles and purposes of the convention, but the convention has not given itself the authority to change the territory of countries and that it cannot be cited as the basis for arbitration in territorial disputes between countries.

Countries concerned should first resolve their territorial disputes over the Nansha Islands and, on that basis, proceed to resolve the issue of maritime delimitation in the South China Sea in accordance with international law, the UN convention included, he said.

China also attaches great importance to the freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea, an important shipping route through which 60 percent of China's external trade is transported.

China urged countries in the region to make better use of the convenience brought about by the freedom of navigation to strengthen connectivity and facilitate trade and mutually beneficial cooperation between regional countries and countries outside the region.