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Wang Yi: Shoulder Joint Responsibilities to Maintain Peace and Stability in the South China Sea
2018-10-29

On October 29, 2018, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Foreign Secretary Teodoro Lopez Locsin of the Philippines jointly met the press after their talks in Davao. A journalist asked about the Chinese side's expectations and opinions on the future situation in the South China Sea.

Wang Yi expressed that in these years, every time I met with Philippine friends, we would talk about the South China Sea issue. But now we feel completely different. Under the guidance of the leaders of China and the Philippines, the situation in the South China Sea is becoming stable and sound through the efforts of the two sides. The countries involved return to the right track of properly resolving disputes through dialogue and consultation. China and the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have jointly maintained peace and stability in the South China Sea. This month, China and the Philippines held a series of bilateral meetings concerning the South China Sea issue. The first round of review on the draft of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) has recently been completed at China-ASEAN senior officials' meeting on a new round of implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). It can be said that the negotiation on the COC has entered a fast lane. As a country coordinator for the China-ASEAN relations, the Philippines has played an important and positive role in this negotiation, for which the Chinese side appreciates.

Wang Yi noted that peace and stability in the South China Sea conform to the common interests of all countries in the region, and are our common aspirations and joint responsibilities we should shoulder. In the next step, we stand ready to work with the ASEAN countries including the Philippines to make great efforts in the following aspects to further consolidate the current sound momentum.

First, we will push maritime cooperation for new breakthroughs. The Chinese side is willing to work with the Philippines and other countries along the coast of the South China Sea to strengthen practical cooperation in environmental protection, scientific investigation, fishery, rescue and other fields, so as to enhance mutual trust and benefit the people of various countries. The Chinese side stands ready to work with the Philippines to continue to explore the joint development of oil and gas in the South China Sea. Pursuing joint development while shelving disputes is a vision with political wisdom proposed by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping when he met with the Philippine leaders 32 years ago. If we can achieve joint development without influencing respective claim to sovereignty, we will not only help the Philippines ease its energy shortage that may face the country in the future, but also find a practical way for both China and the Philippines to properly resolve related disputes and set a good example for conducting such cooperation between other countries along the coast of the South China Sea.

Second, we will establish and improve the mechanisms of maritime communication channels. Currently, as China and the Philippines have increasingly frequent interaction with each other in maritime areas, we should strive to promote the institutionalization of these sound practices and experience. The coastguards of the two countries have established hot lines and are negotiating on building a maritime and air liaison mechanism. Relevant mechanisms can effectively avoid misjudgment and prevent maritime and air accidents. At the same time, the Chinese side is also willing to work with other claimant countries in establishing similar mechanisms to enhance liaison and communication, and handle possible emergencies in a timely manner.

Third, we will actively accelerate the process of the negotiation on the COC. The Chinese side's stance on the negotiation on the COC is very clear: first of all, we hold a positive attitude. The Chinese side stands ready to work with all ASEAN countries to push the process of the negotiation on the COC, hoping that we will complete the negotiation during the tenure of the Philippines as the country coordinator and establish the regional rules that are committed to ensuring peace and stability in the South China Sea at an early date. Second, we are open-minded. The Chinese side is open to all specific contents included in the COC, welcomes all negotiators' constructive suggestions within the existing single text framework, and pools understandings to the best on the basis of building consensus.

Wang Yi finally pointed out that it is also very important that we should jointly guard against and resist various external interferences. While China and the Philippines as well as other countries along the coast of South China Sea jointly maintain peace in the South China Sea and promote mutually beneficial cooperation, some countries outside the region run counter to our hard efforts, constantly make mischief, rock the boat, and wantonly show off their forces in the South China Sea. All countries in this region should remain on high alert, continue to enhance unity and coordination, jointly make the South China Sea a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation, and never leave a chance for external forces to harm the South China Sea.

Teodoro Lopez Locsin expressed that the South China Sea issue is not exclusive between the Philippines and China, and this issue also exists in other ASEAN countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia. The South China Sea issue should not hinder the friendly and mutually beneficial relations between the Philippines and China, nor should it impede the friendly and cooperative relations between relevant ASEAN countries and China. The Philippine side is willing to work with the Chinese side to continue to explore new approaches for strengthening maritime cooperation, continue to firmly implement the DOC, and at the same time, push the negotiation on the COC in an active manner.

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