South China Sea fares better without outside interference

2016-06-03 15:03Xinhua Editor: Mo Hong'e
Fishing boats anchor at the Tanmen port in Qionghai City, south China's Hainan Province, May 16, 2016. China banned fishing from May 16 to Aug. 1 in the South China Sea, a measure taken for the 18th consecutive year. (Photo: Xinhua/Meng Zhongde)

Fishing boats anchor at the Tanmen port in Qionghai City, south China's Hainan Province, May 16, 2016. China banned fishing from May 16 to Aug. 1 in the South China Sea, a measure taken for the 18th consecutive year. (Photo: Xinhua/Meng Zhongde)

It has been widely speculated that the South China Sea will dominate the Shangri-La Dialogue, an Asia-Pacific defense and security summit opened on Friday in Singapore.

If so, the three-day meeting, which gathers military brass, intelligence officers and civilian leaders and promises to play a constructive role in regional security, will be another platform hijacked to make a fanfare of the maritime disputes.

Around the South China Sea, another negative development is that a few, particularly non-claimants, have been busy expanding presence and flexing military muscles around the South China Sea, as an international arbitration tribunal in The Hague prepares to deliver a ruling in the next few months over a case about the issue unilaterally lodged by Manila in 2013.

This adds to the worry that outside interference, which stems from various self-interests, has become an increasingly serious menace to stability in the South China Sea.

For example, the United States has conducted several so-called "freedom of navigation" operations by closely flying or sailing past South China Sea islands, blatantly violating China's sovereign and security interests.

In the meantime, the U.S. military made a series of harsh rhetoric on the issue. During his speech at the U.S. Naval Academy at the end of last month, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the Pentagon's best weapons will be deployed to the Pacific region.

The words and deeds, with an obvious intention to create a volatile situation to help Washington preserve hegemonic presence in the Asia-Pacific region, will embolden certain claimants to make hot-headed moves on the issue.

These claimants should be reminded that if a confrontation between the United States and China whose sovereignty over the South China Sea islands is backed by both legal and historical facts should take place, regional countries will face a Cold War dilemma of picking sides between the world's two largest economies. To avoid such agony, they should be work together for common development and prosperity.

In fact, before the recent disturbances struck, the South China Sea situation had been generally peaceful thanks to Beijing's exercise of restraint and concerted efforts of most countries in the region.

Despite the territorial rows between China and other claimants, freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea has never been a problem. China also views the waters as being vital to global trade and its own development.

The good old time has proven that Beijing and other claimants, whose security and development interests are intensely interwoven, are capable of settling the disputes by themselves.

Successive leaders of claimant countries have agreed in their meetings and political documents that the South China Sea disputes should be resolved peacefully through direct negotiations. This stance is also stated in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

What's heartening is that some positive signs have appeared. Among them, the incoming Philippine Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay has said bilateral talks between the Philippines and China could help untangle the disputes in the South China Sea.

"There is no other way but to go bilateral," he said. The remarks were welcomed by the Chinese sides. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said during a visit to Canada that "the door of dialogue between China and the Philippines is always open."

It is very true that for the South China Sea disputes to be untangled as soon as possible and for the busy patch of water to remain permanently peaceful, outsiders should withdraw their meddling hands and allow the parties directly involved to give their wisdom and pragmatism a full play.


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