|Remarks by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei on the Philippines' Submission of a Memorial to the Arbitral Tribunal in Relation to Disputes with China in the South China Sea|
Q: It is reported that on 30 March, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs held a press conference, at which Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert F. del Rosario stated that the Philippines, in conformity with the Rules of Procedure of the arbitral tribunal on the South China Sea disputes between China and the Philippines, submitted on that day its Memorial to the arbitral tribunal. What is China's comment on this?
A: China's position on issues concerning the South China Sea is clear-cut and consistent. China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters.
China has stated time and again that it does not accept the Philippines' submission of disputes with China in the South China Sea for international arbitration. This position stays unchanged. On issues concerning disputes over sovereignty of islands and reefs and delimitation of maritime boundaries, China has all along adhered to settling disputes through direct negotiations with countries concerned. This position is clearly stated in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) jointly signed by China and ASEAN countries. It is also agreed between China and the Philippines in a series of bilateral documents. The Philippines is obliged to honor its own commitment.
No matter how the Philippine memorial is packaged, the direct cause of the dispute between China and the Philippines is the latter's illegal occupation of some of China's islands and reefs in the South China Sea. At the heart of the matter are the disputes between the two sides on the sovereignty over islands and reefs, and delimitation of maritime boundaries. Yet disputes such as these have already been excluded from arbitration procedures through a declaration made by China in 2006 pursuant to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). In this context, China's rejection of the Philippines' submission for arbitration is solidly based on international law, and China's lawful rights as a party to UNCLOS should be truly respected.
China urges the Philippines to comprehensively and effectively implement the consensus repeatedly reaffirmed between the two sides and the DOC, and return to the right track of settling the disputes through bilateral negotiations.