China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha
Islands and their adjacent waters. It was the first to
discover and name the islands as the Nansha Islands and the
first to exercise sovereign jurisdiction over them. We have
ample historical and jurisprudential evidence to support
this, and the international community has long recognized
it. During World War II, Japan launched the war of
aggression against China and occupied most of China's
territory, including the Nansha Islands. It was explicitly
provided in the Cairo Declaration, the Potsdam Proclamation
and other international documents that all the territories
Japan had stolen from China should be restored to China, and
naturally, they included the Nansha Islands. In December
1946, the then Chinese government sent senior officials to
the Nansha Islands for their recovery. A take-over ceremony
was held on the islands and a monument erected in
commemoration of it, and the troops were sent over on
garrison duty. In 1952 the Japanese Government officially
stated that it renounced all its "right, title and
claim to Taiwan, Penghu Islands as well as Nansha and Xisha
islands", thus formally returning the Nansha Islands to
China. All countries are very clear about this part of
historical background. As a matter of fact, the United
States recognized China's sovereignty over the Nansha
Islands in a series of subsequent international conferences
and international practice.
For quite a long period of time after WWII, there had been no such a thing as the so-called issue of the South China Sea. No country in the area surrounding the South China Sea had challenged China's exercise of sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters. Prior to 1975, Vietnam had, in explicit terms, recognized China's territorial integrity and sovereignty over the Nansha Islands. Before the 1970s, countries like the Philippines and Malaysia had never referred to their territories as including the Nansha Islands in any of their legal instruments or statements made by their leaders. In the Treaty of Peace signed in Paris in 1898 and the Treaty signed in Washington in 1900 between the United States and Spain, the scope of the Philippines' territory was expressly laid down, which did not include the Nansha Islands. This was further confirmed in the Philippines Constitution of 1935and the Mutual Defense Treaty Between the Philippines and the United States in 1951. As for Malaysia, it was only in December 1978 that it first marked part of the Nansha Islands, reefs and waters into the territory of Malaysia in its published continental shelf maps.
Moreover, the Nansha Islands are recognized as China's territory by governments of quite a few countries and by resolutions of international conferences. For example, Resolution No. 24 adopted by the ICAO conference on Pacific regional aviation held in Manila in 1955 requested the Taiwan authorities of China to improve meteorological observation on the Nansha Islands, and no representative at the conference made objection to or reservation about it. In maps published in many countries, the Nansha Islands are marked as China's territory. For example, this is clearly done in Japan's Standard World Atlas of 1952, which was recommended by the then Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuo Okazaki in his own handwriting, the World New Atlas published in Japan in 1962, which was recommended by the then Foreign Minister Masayoshi Ohira , the Welt-Atlas published in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1954, the Penguin world atlas published in the United Kingdom in 1956, and the Larousse atlas published in France in 1956. Vietnam acknowledged the Nansha Islands as being China's territory in its world maps published in 1960 and 1972 as well as its textbooks published in 1974. The Nansha Islands are recognized as China's territory in many countries' authoritative encyclopedias published since the beginning of the 20th century, such as the Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations in the United States in 1963, the Bolshaya Sovietskaya Enciclopediya of 1973 and the Japanese Kyodo World Manual of 1979.
Beginning from the 1970s, countries like Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia have by military means occupied part of the islands and reefs of the Nansha Islands, gone in for big-scale resource development in waters adjacent to the Nansha Islands and laid claim to sovereignty over them. In view of this, the Chinese Government has time and again made solemn statements that these acts constitute serious infringement upon China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and are illegal, null and void. The so-called legal basis provided by those countries is not tenable at all.