Chinese foreign minister visits Singapore, reiterates position on South China Sea issue

Aug 6, 2015 Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi while on an official visit to Singapore affirmed China’s commitment to peace and stability in the disputed energy-rich South China Sea. Minister Wang said this during a meeting with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Regional Forum holding in Malaysia.

Wang reiterated China’s stance on the issue saying

“China’s position regarding the South China Sea issue may be summarized in five commitment points. The first, we commit to upholding the peace and stability in the South China Sea. Secondly we are committed to peacefully resolving in the disputes by way of negotiation and consultation. Thirdly we are committed to managing our differences through developing rules and mechanisms and fourthly we are committed to generating mutually beneficial and win-win results through development and co-operation. At the moment the general situation in the South China Sea is stable, and China is steadfastly committed to working with the parties to maintain the situation which has not come easily. And we will never allow any country to destabilize the South China Sea,”

The Chinese Foreign Minister went on to say that the bilateral issues between China and Asian countries involved in the South China Sea dispute should not become a talking point at the ASEAN summit, but that he would be willing to engage in discussion if it was brought up.

Despite rival claims by Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan, China currently lays claims to most of the South China Sea, which fetches over $5 trillion annually in ship-borne trade.

Although the United States and China are not members of ASEAN, both countries have been invited to participate alongside other countries outside the group. The United States, which will be represented by Secretary of State John Kerry, had expressed concerns over China’s increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea. However, the Asian giant has repeatedly urged the United State to maintain a neutral status over the escalating maritime dispute.

The foreign minister used the opportunity to clarify some hazy issues:

“The focus of the dispute between China and some countries, that’s not in regard to the so-called 9 dash line. Rather, the focus of dispute is about the illegal occupation of some of the islands and reefs that belong to China’s Nansha group of islands, and the overlapping maritime rights and interests that had arised as a result of the territorial dispute. And China’s position on the issue has been consistent and clear-cut, and I will not repeat China’s position here. I think anyone familiar with the basic fact and history of the issue would understand that the so-called 9 dash line issue is just hype-up,”

The claims of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei are bisected by China’s “nine-dash line” – the historic claim that reaches deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.

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