By Shi Tian Source:Global Times
The South China Sea has been rough in recent days.
Malaysia filed a formal submission on December 12 to the UN seeking to clarify the limits of its continental shelf in the northern area of the South China Sea. The country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Saifuddin Abdullah further criticized China and called China’s claim that “the whole of South China Sea belongs to China” “ridiculous” on Friday.
The South China Sea has been Chinese territory since ancient times. China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime interests in the waters brook no infringement under any circumstances. Malaysia’s move “seriously infringed on China’s sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the South China Sea,” China’s permanent mission to the UN stated in a diplomatic note to the Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
For years, China has exercised great restraint on the South China Sea issue, actively promoted the China-ASEAN South China Sea Code of Conduct and positively carried out cooperation with all stakeholders in politics, economics, trade and many other fields. This is essential to enhance mutual trust and lay a solid foundation to settle disputes over water areas. With China’s efforts, the South China Sea situation has started to show a trend of easing off.
However, to the US, this is not an encouraging tendency. The last thing Washington hopes to see is that China keep on good terms with Southeast Asian claimants and that the South China Sea situation develops in the right direction.
As a result, the US has repeatedly stirred up trouble in the waters since last year and attempted to contain China through its Indo-Pacific strategy. Its fundamental purpose is to impede cooperation and development between China and the states surrounding the South China Sea.
For instance, US Navy warships sailed near China’s islands in the South China Sea twice in November. And John Aquilino, the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet commander, accused China of “bullying” Southeast Asian nations.
Under such conditions, many regional countries have been forced to take sides between the US and China. And with US support, certain forces in this region have seized the opportunity and fermented troubles against China. Malaysia’s submission is an example.
The South China Sea issue is rooted in history. It can be resolved only through negotiations between all relevant regional claimant countries. At the current stage, it is particularly important for all parties to promote the Code of Conduct.
Meanwhile, regional nations must be vigilant against external forces, especially the US. Since Washington adjusted its policy toward China, it has always made an issue of the South China Sea. Regional countries should be fully aware that Washington’s real aim is to contain China’s rise, instead of helping them to pursue their interests.
The key to settling the South China Sea problem lies in the regional members themselves. All parties should join hands to eliminate external interference and explore their own solution. Only then can the basis for an independent Asian security architecture be laid.