China says consultations, negotiations 'best way' to settle South China Sea disputes

Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 03 2020 10:25 PM | Updated as of Sep 03 2020 10:59 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) - Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday said countries should settle disputes in the South China Sea through consultations and negotiations.

“We should continue to let the countries directly concerned resolve their disputes through consultations and negotiations. This is the best way to settle disputes. It is also a serious commitment made by China and ASEAN countries in the DOC,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry quoted Wang as saying in a symposium in Beijing, referring to the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

China rejected arbitration as a mode of settling the dispute when the Philippines sued its neighbor before the Permanent Court of Arbitration to challenge China’s sweeping claim over the South China Sea.

Wang also called for the conclusion of negotiations for a Code fo Conduct (COC), saying it “will provide the key to managing differences and maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea.”

“On the COC consultations, China is sincere in its attitude, and firm in resolve,” he said, as he also called for joint development while setting aside disputes.

“…[W]e need to pursue joint development while setting aside disputes. This is a practical way in advancing cooperation. While confirming and granting us rights and interests, UNCLOS and other international laws also clearly define our responsibilities and obligations on cooperation,” he said.

“China will continue to work with other littoral states of the South China Sea for early, substantive progress in joint development, to bring real benefits to our countries and peoples.”

Wang also referred to a “certain country outside the region” that is “bent on interfering in the disputes in the South China Sea.” Previous statements from Chinese officials have singled out the United States, accusing it of stoking tensions in the region.

“To serve its own geopolitical agenda, certain country outside the region is bent on interfering in the disputes in the South China Sea. It seeks to drive a wedge between regional countries and destabilize the situation. Such moves are highly unpopular, and countries in the region will not fall for them. The South China Sea should not become a tool of certain country for China bashing, still less a wrestling ground for major-country competition,” Wang said.

INTERNATIONAL COURTS

For Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr, settling disputes can be done through international courts.

As he reflected on the lessons of war during the the virtual commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Japanese surrender that marked the end of World War II in the Philippines, Locsin said nations need not go to war to resolve conflicts even if open and candid discussion turns “into a hard slog” but should instead sit down and talk.

"When resolving conflicts through open and candid discussion turns into a hard slog, countries still need not go to war. The international courts exist for such purpose. And between friendly nations, any gaps are just more reasons to sit down, talk and get back to working together more closely and candidly; more effectively,” he said.

Locsin added, however, that “if more talk just buys more time for the determined aggressor,” there is “the last expression of sovereignty engraved on cannons,” referring to war.

He used the phrase “ultima ratio regum,” defined by Merriam Webster as “the final argument of kings (i.e., war).”

Meantime, Locsin stressed the importance of international intelligence and military cooperation amid the rise of ISIS and other terror groups, adding that the US Patriot Act “remains the only realistic template for democracies to combat terror without doing violence to democratic principles.”

“But nothing is as crucial to success, especially in the short run, than international intelligence and military cooperation. Bad ideas and worse intentions cannot outlive the bad people who have them. We just have to know in time who and where they are,” he said.