History Shows the International Community's Universal Recognition of China's Sovereignty over the Nansha Islands
2016/06/06
 

In January 2013, the Philippines unilaterally initiated the South China Sea arbitration. Its ultimate purpose is to deny China's territorial sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and win support for its illegal occupation of some islands and reefs of China's Nansha Islands. As the arbitration case develops, it becomes increasingly clear that Western countries have played a dominant role in the farce. The U.S. lawyers were fully involved in the case, offering guidance to the Philippines. They are no doubt behind this farce. Japanese national Shunji Yanai, President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), has also been actively involved in the arbitration case, regardless of the disputes between China and Japan about territorial sovereignty over and maritime demarcation in the East China Sea. The U.S. and Japan claim that they take no position on the sovereignty over the Nansha Islands but what they have done is backing up the Philippines' arguments and rendering support to its encroachment upon China's maritime rights. The seemingly impartial stance of Western countries represented by the U.S. is actually a denial of historical facts.

 

It was a Western country, rather than any of China's neighbors, that was the first to challenge China's sovereignty over the Nanshan Islands. In 1933, France asserted its claim to and "occupied" nine islands and reefs of the Nansha Islands. Japan sent troops to occupy the Nansha Islands in 1939 during its war of aggression against China. As the World Anti-Fascist War and the Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression progressed, China, the U.S. and the UK jointly issued the Cairo Declaration in 1943 and the Potsdam Proclamation in 1945, making clear that all the territories Japan had stolen from the Chinese shall be restored to China and laying the foundation for the establishment of a new post-war international order. Between 1946 and 1947, China accepted the surrender of Japanese troops in the South China Sea islands at the Yulin Naval Base on the Hainan Island, resumed exercise of sovereignty over the South China Sea islands, including the Nansha Islands, and sent troops to garrison the islands. The restoration of the Nansha Islands to China is an important part of the post-war international order. In this sense, any attempt to negate China's sovereignty over the Nanshan Islands is to deny history and to disrupt the post-war international order.

 

In fact, for a very long time after the end of World War II, China's sovereignty over the South China Sea and its related rights and interests were not challenged by any country but universally recognized by the international community including the U.S., Japan and France.

 

The U.S. was an ally of China during World War II and rendered active support to China's efforts to resume exercise of sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands. The warship used by the government of the Republic of China in taking back the Nansha Islands in 1946 was actually provided by the U.S. In 1956 and 1960, the U.S. Navy asked permission and got approval from the Taiwan authorities to send survey ship to the South China Sea. In 1950, the troops of Taiwan received on the Taiping Dao U.S. army captain Marlyn Lacy and his two companions who were trying to locate the sites of crashed aircraft and bodies of the air crew. The actions of U.S. diplomatic and military departments indicate that the U.S. was aware of and respected China's sovereignty over the Nansha Islands, which is important evidence of the U.S. recognition of China's sovereignty over the Nansha Islands. China's sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands was also affirmed in the authoritative maps and books published in the U.S. at the time, such as The Columbia Lippincott Gazetteer of the World of 1961, Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations of 1963, and Encyclopedia of World Administration Division of 1971.

After Japan's surrender, the Treaty of Peace with Japan was signed in San Francisco in 1951. According to the Treaty, Japan shall give up all right, title and claim to the Nansha Islands and the Xisha Islands. In 1952, the Japanese government officially renounced "all right, title and claim to the Nansha Islands and Xisha Islands". China and Japan normalized their diplomatic relations in 1972. In the China-Japan Joint Communiqué, the Japanese government pledged that it would adhere to Article 8 of the Potsdam Proclamation. The South China Sea Islands are clearly marked as China's territory in Japan's Standard World Atlas of 1952, which was recommended by the then Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuo Okazaki in his own handwriting. All these documents and facts reflect Japan's understanding of the territorial arrangements after World War II and further prove that Japan recognizes that the South China Sea Islands are China's territory. Moreover, China's sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands is recognized in many authoritative books and maps published in Japan in the 1960s and the 1970s, such as the Yearbook of New China of 1966, the World Manual of 1971, the Atlas of China published by Heibonsha in 1973, and the Japanese Kyodo World Manual of 1979.

 

France had once occupied several islands and reefs of China's Nansha Islands but it made no claim at all to the Nanshan Islands in the negotiation process of the Treaty of Peace with Japan. Apparently, the French government did not think that it had sovereignty over or any title to the South China Sea Islands. After the Treaty had been signed, a number of French diplomats made clear their positions on different occasions on the sovereignty over the South China Sea islands. On June 9, 1956, the French Ambassador to the Philippines noted that the argument that France transferred the South China Sea Islands to Vietnam according to the Geneva Agreements of 1954 was groundless. On March 2, 1977, the Consulate General of France in Hong Kong Alexandre Yersin indicated clearly that the Nansha Islands had never been Vietnam's territory. In addition, the Dongsha Islands, the Nansha Islands, and the Zhongsha Islands are all marked as China's territory in the Atlas International Larousse Politique et Economique published by France in 1956. The Nansha Islands are marked as China's territory in the General Map of the World published by Institut Geographique National Francais in 1968 and the Atlas Larousse Modern published in Paris in 1969. All these maps reflect France's understanding of the sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands after World War II.

 

The maps and authoritative encyclopedias published by many other countries such as the UK, Germany, the Soviet Union and Romania all mark or record the South China Sea Islands as China's territory. History is undeniable. The actions, maps and publications of all these countries give full expression to the general consensus reached at the time in the international community that the South China Sea Islands are China's territory and further prove that China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands. Any attempt to deny China's sovereignty over the South China Sea and its related rights and interests is a denial of or disregard for historical facts.

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