Safeguarding the South China Sea
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UPDATED: June 8, 2015 NO. 24 JUNE 11, 2015
Everyone's Business

During this year's Shangri-La Dialogue held from May 29-31 in Singapore, countries headed by the United States condemned China for constructing artificial islands in China's territory in the South China Sea.

Sun Jianguo, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army, made clear China's stance while addressing the summit, saying, "China's resolve to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity and will to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea are unshakable."

Given that the Chinese have suffered through the atrocities of war before and the memories of conflict are still fresh, the Chinese Government and people have been persistent in maintaining peace. Since the reform and opening-up drive was launched in the late 1970s, China has accelerated its economic development. In order to accommodate peaceful development, the country needs a stable neighboring environment. Nevertheless, disputes surrounding the South China Sea and the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea constitute external obstacles hindering national growth.

The location of China's construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea is within the country's range of sovereignty. The purposes behind the activities are to improve the living conditions of the soldiers and other personnel stationed on the islands and to provide better services for maritime search and rescue, navigation, and meteorological studies.

After the Malaysia Airlines' flight MH370 bound for Beijing disappeared in March 2014, international rescue teams performed a huge amount of search and rescue work in the South China Sea. If China had improved its services prior to this, it would have been able to provide better aid in the search for the plane.

At this year's dialogue, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter bluntly criticized China for building artificial islands in the South China Sea while turning a blind eye to other countries' construction activities in the same area. Such double standards are unacceptable to China and provide little help in the quest to peacefully solve disputes in the South China Sea.

Right before the Shangri-La Dialogue on May 26, China published a white paper on its military strategy. The document sets out in detail the general principles of China's national defense strategy, which include safeguarding its national unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty; pursuing the path of peaceful development; maintaining regional and world peace; and never seeking hegemony.

Peace and stability in the South China Sea should be maintained by all countries surrounding the area. Disagreements and problems can be solved through consultations and negotiations. All countries involved wish to see a peaceful outcome rather than conflicts and confrontations, which are detrimental to the interests of all.

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