Truth is Truth to the End of Reckoning

I read the article titled "Rules (not might) make right in SCS"written by the Acting US Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller yesterday just before his upcoming visit to the Philippines. It is not surprising that the article is full of groundless accusations against China and colossal fallacies about South China Sea as well as the regional situation. Obviously he has dressed up the US as a patron and judge of other sovereign countries. It is a living evidence showcasing that the purpose of his visit is not to promote regional peace and stability, but to create chaos and confrontation in the region to the last minute of the incumbent administration. It has triggered my thinking and response on the following questions.

First, who is the mighty and arbitrary violator of international laws and rules ?

It is our firm belief that no country has the right to dominate global affairs, control the destiny of others, or keep advantages in development all to itself by practicing exceptionalism or double standards. In recent years, while promoting "America first" and placing its own interests above everything else, this US administration has been habitually breaching its international commitments and obligations and withdrawing from organizations and treaties. The current US administration has pulled out of more international treaties than any one before it, making itself the most damaging force of the current international order. Actually it went so far as to groundlessly attack and withdraw from the World Health Organization at the height of COVID-19 pandemic. The US talked much about the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and quoted its provisions everywhere, yet ironically the US itself has refused to join and respect the UNCLOS per se. Apart from that, the US overstretched the concept of national security at will and abused state power to unjustifiably suppress foreign enterprises, such as Huawei and Tiktok.Without any solid evidence, the US has launched a global campaign against innocent private Chinese companies, which is a textbook example of "Might makes right". It is obvious that the US goal is to keep its monopoly in science and technology but deny other countries the legitimate right to development. Such acts not only violate the international rules of fair trade, but also hurt the free global market environment.

In sharp contrast, China made unremitting efforts to safeguard the UN-centered international system and the international order underpinned by international law. China was the first to put its signature on the UN Charter, and has joined almost all international treaties and agreements, always faithfully fulfilling its due international responsibilities and obligations. We are also convinced that major countries should lead by example in advocating and upholding the international rule of law and in honoring their commitments. We respect international law including UNCLOS, and support the proper handling of the South China Sea (SCS) issue in accordance with universally-recognized principles of international law, UNCLOS and the Declaration of the Conduct (DOC) of Parties in SCS included.

As for the so-called arbitration award, China's position has been firm and consistent. I suggest that Mr. Miller read the newly published A Legal Critique of the Award of the Arbitral Tribunal in the Matter of the South China Sea Arbitration, compiled by the National Institute for South China Sea Studies in collaboration with the British law firm FIETTA LLP for better understanding. China will continue to champion and pursue multilateralism, and promote multipolarity and greater democracy in international relations.

Second, who has constantly destabilized the SCS by taking provocative and coercive actions?

The SCS is the shared home for the countries in the region, and it has served as an important conduit for trade, people-to-people exchanges and transportation of medical supplies during the pandemic. It should not be a wrestling ground for international politics. Facts have proved that settling disputes through friendly consultation and dialogue is the right way that best serves the interests of regional countries. China remains firmly committed to the peace and stability in the SCS, and stands ready to strengthen maritime cooperation with littoral countries, deepen mutual security confidence, and advance joint development of maritime resources while setting aside disputes, so as to make the South China Sea a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation. The wise don't buy rumors. Despite the groundless attacks in the article and distorted and biased reports in recent days by the Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative(AMTI), a major US think-tank close to the State Department, Pentagon and Wall Street, China's goodwill and staunch commitment to peace and stability in the SCS are crystal clear. Even high-ranking military officials of the Philippines have denied Chinese vessels conducting hostile activities.

It is the US that has taken provocative actions increasingly, with the purpose of destabilizing the SCS and hijacking regional countries onto its chariot to serve its own domestic politics and geopolitical agenda. First, the US has breached its longstanding commitment of not taking sides, and blatantly interfered in the territorial disputes. Second, the US keeps increasing and showing off its military presence in the South China Sea. It has sent thousands of military planes, tens of warships and aircraft carriers to the SCS on numerous occasions for military provocations, which goes as far as using the electronic codes of civil aviation planes of the Philippines and other regional countries to carry out espionage flights in the SCS. Third, the US is seeking to drive a wedge between China and ASEAN countries, and disrupt the consultation process of the Code of Conduct (COC). Facts have proved that the US is the biggest driver of the militarization of the SCS and the most dangerous external factor endangering the peace and stability of the SCS. All regional countries should be vigilant, and prevent the region's hard-won peace and development from being sabotaged.

Third, in what direction should China and regional countries move forward?

East Asia is the most dynamic region in the world today and will be a most promising economy in the future. The success that East Asia has achieved over the past years lies in the continued commitment to the Asian values of solidarity and coordination, by following the trend of the time towards globalization, and staying on the right path of pursuing multilateralism and of pursuing regional cooperation framework with ASEAN at the center. Faced with the once-in-a-century change and the COVID-19 pandemic, all countries in the region must continue to stay committed to these values and cooperation modes that have proved effective over the years. At the 23rd CHINA- ASEAN Summit, leaders of China and ASEAN member states reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety at the South China Sea, and recognized the benefits of having the South China Sea as a sea of peace, stability and prosperity, especially during this time in the common fight against COVID-19.

During the pandemic, the US should have paid more efforts to protect lives of its citizens, and join the regional and global endeavor to fight the virus, rather than pointing fingers and playing blame game. It is ridiculous to accuse China of seeking to exploit the COVID-19 crisis through provocative steps in the South China Sea. On the contrary, China has been assisting the regional countries to tide over the crisis by providing medical supplies, dispatching medical teams and sharing anti-pandemic experience. We will continue to join hands with regional countries to fight against COVID-19 and bolster public health capacity, including cooperation on vaccine development, procurement and production. We would also like to enhance policy coordination for collective economic recovery, and advance practical cooperation and improve sustainable development capacity.

It is impossible to achieve development and prosperity in the region without a peaceful and stable SCS. We will, as always, work with ASEAN countries to fully and effectively implement the DOC and steadily advance COC consultations. Thanks to the concerted efforts of regional countries, the COC consultations are proceeding smoothly and speedily, with the second reading of the text already begun. China and ASEAN countries have agreed to conclude the COC at an early date despite the negative impact of COVID-19, a goal we are confident and determined to achieve. No external interference can distract or sabotage our efforts.

A region's future and destiny should be determined by the people in that region. The regional countries have the right to achieve their own development as well as the right to pursue independent foreign policies. China is ready to work with all countries in the region to build and share a brighter future of peace and common prosperity. It is also our hope that the US could be a building rather than stumbling block of the peace and stability in the region.

(H.E. Huang Xilian, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People's Republic of China to the Republic of the Philippines)

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