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China insists on historical, legal claims over South China Sea

China says it has a historical claim over the South China Sea, including the portion that Manila calls the West Philippine Sea. File photo
MANILA, Philippines -- China on Tuesday reiterated its position that it has a historical and legal claim over the South China Sea while also saying that it is ready to resolve disputes peacefully.
 
"The activities of the Chinese people in the South China Sea date back to over 2,000 years ago. China is the first to have discovered, named, and explored and exploited Nanhai Zhudao and relevant waters, and the first to have exercised sovereignty and jurisdiction over them continuously, peacefully and effectively, thus establishing territorial sovereignty and relevant rights and interests in the South China Sea," Beijing said in a statement released on state-run Xinhua News.
 
It said that it recovered and resumed sovereignty of what it calls the Nanhai Zhudao, or South China Sea islands, that it said were occupied by Japan during World War II.
 
"To strengthen the administration over Nanhai Zhudao, the Chinese government in 1947 reviewed and updated the geographical names of Nanhai Zhudao, compiled Nan Hai Zhu Dao Di Li Zhi Lue (A Brief Account of the Geography of the South China Sea Islands), and drew Nan Hai Zhu Dao Wei Zhi Tu (Location Map of the South China Sea Islands) on which the dotted line is marked. This map was officially published and made known to the world by the Chinese government in February 1948," it said.
 
Beijing added that the People's Republic of China has also upheld sovereignty over the South China Sea through the following "legal instruments":
 
  • 1958 Declaration of the Government of the People's Republic of China on China's Territorial Sea
  • 1992 Law of the People's Republic of China on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone
  • 1998 Law of the People's Republic of China on the Exclusive Economic Zone and the Continental Shelf
  • 1996 Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China on the Ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
 
Beijing said that it has sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands and the internal waters, territorial sea and contiguous zone. It said China also has an exclusive economic zone and continental shelf in the South China Sea because of the claim.
 
"China has historic rights in the South China Sea," it also said.
 
Beijing said that is "firmly opposed" to what it said is the invasion and illegal occupation of islands and reefs "by certain states". 
 
"China stands ready to continue to resolve the relevant disputes peacefully through negotiation and consultation with the states directly concerned on the basis of respecting historical facts and in accordance with international law. Pending final settlement, China is also ready to make every effort with the states directly concerned to enter into provisional arrangements of a practical nature, including joint development in relevant maritime areas, in order to achieve win-win results and jointly maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea," it also said.
 
China added it "respects and upholds the freedom of navigation and overflight enjoyed by all states under international law in the South China Sea, and stays ready to work with other coastal states and the international community to ensure the safety of and the unimpeded access to the international shipping lanes in the South China Sea."
 
An international tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines in an arbitration case against China on Tuesday. It ruled that China's "nine-dash line" claim over a large part of the South China Sea, including parts within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone that Manila calls the West Philippine Sea, has no basis. -- Jonathan de Santos
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