No 'meddling' in South China Sea

08:50, June 15, 2011      

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China firmly opposes attempts to internationalize the South China Sea issue, it said yesterday after Vietnam said other countries could help defuse tensions over the potentially resource-rich region.

"We hope that countries that are not parties to the South China Sea dispute truly respect the efforts of the countries concerned to resolve their disputes through consultation," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.

China's military newspaper was blunter.

"China resolutely opposes any country unrelated to the South China Sea issue meddling in disputes, and it opposes the internationalization of the South China Sea issue," said a commentary in the Liberation Army Daily.

China's statements came after naval exercises by Vietnam's military in the South China Sea, and follow a weekend statement by Hanoi welcoming efforts by the international community, including the United States, to help resolve the issue.

"The recent developments in the South China Sea were the result of unilateral actions by some countries that damaged China's sovereignty and maritime rights," Hong told a news conference. "China has been protecting its legitimate rights and not violating those of other countries."

Vietnam conducted a military exercise on Monday in an "exclusive economic maritime zone" over which it claims sovereignty, a move the Chinese military daily said will only heighten disputes.

"It has been proved by history that any move to play up disputes, sharpen contradictions, or intentionally internationalize disputes will only make the situation worse," the newspaper said.

Stressing that China opposed any "unrelated" country interfering in the South China Sea issue, the article urged the countries involved to stop any unilateral action that would complicate the issue.

Chinese people were the first to discover and develop islands in the South China Sea and had indisputable sovereignty over the islands and their surrounding seawater, the article noted.

In an official statement issued in 1958, the Chinese government clearly claimed the islands in the South China Sea as part of its sovereign territory, and the then Vietnamese Premier Pham Van Dong also agreed.

The countries concerned had acknowledged that the South China Sea belonged to China and the situation had remained calm until 1968, when the United Nations reported the sea had oil resources, the article said.

Following that report, many coastal countries on the South China Sea began to claim sovereignty over the islands in the sea and even took forceful actions to occupy some of them, which resulted in a territorial dispute with China, it added.

Source: Shanghai Daily
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