Remarks by Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi at the ARF Foreign Ministers' Meeting
2011/07/24

On the Situation in the Asia-Pacific

Over the past decades, the Asia-Pacific region has maintained overall peace and stability. The economy of the region has enjoyed fast and dynamic growth, and become an important driver of global economic growth. Regional cooperation has made vigorous progress. Cooperation mechanisms, including ASEAN, 10+1, 10+3, China, Japan and the ROK, EAS, ARF and APEC have made steady improvement and developed side by side.

The sustained growth of the region is attributable to the relatively peaceful and stable environment of the last decades, which has benefited all countries. Peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region has not come easily. It has been made possible through the concerted efforts of various parties, and should be cherished by all of us.

There is no denying that there exist some destabilizing factors in the region, including territorial disputes left from the past, and traditional and non-traditional security threats. We must resolve differences through dialogue and negotiation and meet common challenges through cooperation. This is the consensus of countries in this region.

Over the past thirty years and more, China has made important contribution to peace, stability and development of this region. China will stick to the path of peaceful development, pursue a win-win strategy of opening-up, follow the policy of building friendship and partnership with its neighbors, engage in friendly cooperation with all other Asia-Pacific countries based on the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, and work with them for a regional environment of peace, stability, equality, mutual trust and win-win cooperation.

On the Korean Peninsula

Recently, the situation on the Korean Peninsula has gone through ups and downs and the dialogue process has stalled. China is very much concerned about these developments, and has made a lot of efforts to encourage talks and defuse tension. We support any effort that is conducive to peace and stability on the Peninsula. We support contacts and dialogue between the relevant parties, and hope that the contacts and dialogue will proceed in parallel with the Six Party Talks. In this regard, we welcome the engagement between the DPRK and the ROK on the Bali Island yesterday.

Over the past more than two years since the Six Party Talks stalled, the denuclearization process on the Peninsula has come to a halt, and peace and stability on the Peninsula has encountered setbacks. This serves the interests of no one. China believes that the Six Party Talks is an important mechanism for the relevant parties to have fruitful communication and an effective platform to ease tension and promote the denuclearization on the Peninsula.

We hope that the relevant parties will work together to restart dialogue and consultation as soon as possible and jointly uphold peace and stability of the Peninsula. China will continue to play a constructive role in this regard.

On Myanmar

A few months ago, the Assembly of the Union of Myanmar elected a new national leadership, and achieved the smooth transition to a civilian government. This is a significant and welcome development that will contribute to Myanmar's democracy and development.

Myanmar is a member of the ASEAN family. Myanmar's prosperity and stability is in the fundamental interest of its people and conducive to the common development of the region and the ASEAN integration process. The international community should respect the path chosen by Myanmar in keeping with its own national conditions.

China supports ASEAN in continuing to play a constructive role on the Myanmar issue and stands ready to work with ASEAN and the rest of the international community to help Myanmar achieve stability and development and to maintain peace and development of the region.

On the South China Sea

There are disputes concerning the sovereignty over some islands and reefs and the delimitation of certain waters in the South China Sea. This is a reality. These disputes should be peacefully resolved through friendly consultations between the parties to the disputes. This is in keeping with the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the basic consensus of the relevant parties. As a matter of fact, the channels of dialogue and consultation between the relevant parties are open and smooth. Recently, China has had in-depth communication with relevant countries. We all agreed to make joint efforts to uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea and prevent the disputes from affecting the growth of bilateral relations.

In recent years, China and ASEAN countries have made vigorous efforts to implement the DOC. At the China-ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting the day before yesterday, all parties unanimously adopted the Guidelines for the Implementation of the DOC. This outcome demonstrates the resolve, confidence and capability of China and ASEAN countries to jointly promote peace and stability in the South China Sea by implementing the DOC. At the meeting, China put forward a series of initiatives to promote practical cooperation under the DOC framework. These initiatives include holding a seminar on navigation freedom in the South China Sea and establishing three technical committees on marine scientific research and environmental protection and on other activities. China also reaffirmed its readiness to undertake the three cooperation projects already agreed upon by all parties. This once again shows China's commitment to and sincerity about the implementation of the DOC. China is open to discussing the formulation of a code of conduct of the parties in the South China Sea (COC) when conditions are ripe. But the pressing task at present is to start practical cooperation in the South China Sea.

Here I wish to underscore the need to properly handle disputes, reduce differences, enhance mutual trust, expand cooperation and safeguard peace and stability. It serves the interests of all countries in this region and should become our common goal.

Freedom of navigation was raised at today's meeting. History shows that over the past decades, the economy of the region has come a long way and played an increasingly important role in driving world economic growth. This would not have been possible without freedom of navigation and safety in the South China Sea. Navigation in the South China Sea is free and the international shipping lanes are safe. It is fair to say that countries in and outside the region all benefit from freedom of navigation and safety in the South China Sea. The disputes over some islands and reefs and maritime delimitation of the South China Sea are one issue. Freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is a separate issue. These two issues should not be mixed up. We believe that what really needs to be done is to bring into full play the potential benefits brought about by the freedom of navigation. Countries in the region should enhance connectivity and increase trade. Countries outside the region, particularly the developed economies, should make full use of the convenience brought about by freedom of navigation in the South China Sea to step up mutually beneficial cooperation with countries inside the region and support the progress and prosperity of the developing countries in the region.

Freedom of navigation and safety in the South China Sea is vital to countries around the South China Sea and Asia as a whole. Asia contributes 50% of the global economic growth, and China 26%. In the coming five years, China's imports are expected to hit around US$10 trillion. Most of the imports will be from the countries represented here. Some of the goods will be transported by China's vessels and quite a lot by vessels of other countries. Freedom of navigation is in the interests of China as well as other countries. The importance of freedom of navigation and safety in the South China Sea is self-evident. Freedom of navigation is not impeded, and should not be allowed to be impeded in the future.

Over the years, China has worked with the relevant parties and made unremitting efforts to safeguard the freedom of navigation and safety in the South China Sea and push forward maritime security cooperation. China has taken an active part in the building of the Malacca Strait cooperation mechanism and is a founding member of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ship in Asia. China and ASEAN countries have established the maritime consultation mechanism. China will continue to work with other countries to safeguard the freedom of navigation and safety in the South China Sea. We stand ready to increase maritime connectivity with ASEAN and strengthen cooperation in sea transportation, maritime affairs and ports.

China's exchanges and cooperation with foreign countries are all-dimensional. China cares about freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. Not only that, we care about and contribute our share to freedom of navigation and safety in the international shipping lanes of other regions. A case in point is the Gulf of Aden and waters off the Somali coast. In an effort to maintain freedom of navigation, the Chinese naval vessels have been performing escort missions there since 2008. By the end of last June, it had escorted a total of 3,953 Chinese and foreign ships in 339 groups. China will continue to make its due contribution in this regard.

According to international law and practice, territorial and maritime disputes should first be settled through direct negotiations between the parties to the disputes. It is clearly stipulated in the DOC signed by China and ASEAN countries that the territorial and jurisdictional disputes should be resolved peacefully by sovereign states directly concerned through friendly consultations and negotiations. It should be the common aspiration of all ARF participants to have the concerned parties resolve their disputes through negotiations and consultations and maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.

The ARF is a platform for the relevant countries to enhance mutual trust and strengthen cooperation. The countries concerned should do more to narrow differences and resolve disputes. China's position regarding the South China Sea is supported by ample historical and legal evidence. China's efforts to properly handle the South China Sea disputes and maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea are there for all to see.

The dotted line was formally announced by the Chinese government in 1948. China's sovereignty, rights and claims in the South China Sea were established and developed in the long course of history. They have been consistently upheld by the Chinese government.

China has always been committed to peacefully resolving our disputes with relevant countries concerning sovereignty over islands and reefs and maritime delimitation in the South China Sea. And we are committed to doing so through direct negotiations and friendly consultations on the basis of respecting historical facts and international law.

Lastly, I would like to stress that the overall situation in the South China Sea is peaceful and stable. This is a fact. Over the years, this region has maintained overall political stability and economic development. Regional cooperation has moved from strength to strength. Asia now faces rare development opportunities. This year marks the 20th anniversary of China-ASEAN dialogue relations. China and ASEAN countries should make full use of this opportunity to promote practical cooperation in the South China Sea and work together to turn the South China Sea into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation.

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