At the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, the Chief of China's PLA General Staff, Lieutenant General Wang Guanzhong answered press questions about the Nine Dash Line, the demarkation line used by China for its South China Sea territorial claims.
At a media session on Monday, Wang said that China's sovereign power and jurisdictional rights over the South China Sea have been taking shape since the Han Dynasty, some 2,000 years ago.
In 1948, two years after China took back the Nansha and Xisha Islands from Japanese occupation, China presented the Nine Dash Line. Wang said that countries near the South China Sea did not question this line until the 1970s, when rich oil reserves were discovered under its waters.
Wang also said that China respects its responsibilities as a signatory of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. But he said that the convention, which took effect in 1994, could not be applied retroactively. He stressed that the UN cannot redefine sovereignty and maritime jurisdiction that had already been established through history.
He also said that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea is only one part of the vast legal system governing maritime sovereignty and jurisdiction, and that any attempts to adjust territorial claims would involve many other international laws, as well as the convention.
Wang also recently said that it is the US that is leading the charge for China to clarify its definition of the Nine Dash Line, but the US itself is not a signatory of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
"Why didn't the U.S. sign the convention?" Wang asked. "Because the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea works against the U.S. in many areas. How could a non-signatory party blame China while citing the relevance of the convention? Does the U.S. respect the convention? And when does the U.S. plan to join the convention?"
(CNTV.cn June 3, 2014)