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Special> Diaoyu Islands Dispute> Opinion
UPDATED: September 10, 2012 NO. 37 SEPTEMBER 13, 2012
Defending the Chinese Perspective

BON VOYAGE: Maritime inspectors check a route plan for Qiongsha III, a ship ferrying supplies to Sansha, in Wenchang, south China's Hainan Province, on August 24 (ZHAO YINGQUAN)

Recently, the territorial and maritime disputes in East Asia have heated up and drawn global attention. In a recent interview with Beijing Review, Wang Xiaodu, Special Representative of the Chinese Foreign Ministry for Boundary and Ocean Affairs, reiterated China's position on the issue. Excerpts follow:

Beijing Review: Foreign media generally consider the Diaoyu Islands and the islands in the South China Sea as "disputed islands," not "Chinese islands." Do you accept the term "disputed islands"?

Wang Xiaodu: These islands have been China's inherent territory since ancient times, and China owns undisputable sovereignty over them. Chinese people were the first to discover, name, develop and exploit these islands, and the Chinese Government has consistently exercised sovereignty and jurisdiction over them.

The Diaoyu Islands and their affiliated islands were seized by Japan by illegal means in the late 19th century. Some islets of the Nansha Islands were illegally invaded and occupied by some countries in the 1970s. That triggered disputes over the sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands and the Nansha Islands. There have been no disputes at all about China's sovereignty over other islands in the South China Sea, such as the Xisha Islands, the Dongsha Islands and the Zhongsha Islands, including Huangyan Island, which is part of the Zhongsha Islands. Recently, some Western media outlets have accused China of fabricating the history of the South China Sea. This is an unabashed lie intended to stir up disputes and conflicts.

The Chinese Government has an unswerving determination to safeguard its state sovereignty and territorial integrity. It opposes all attempts to create new territorial disputes.

China has convincing historical evidence and adequate legal basis for its claim of sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and the Diaoyu Islands. However, some countries have refused to accept China's position and have frequently provoked conflicts. What is the motive behind all this?

Disputes over the Nansha Islands and the Diaoyu Islands are issues left over from history with complicated causes. Generally speaking, the Diaoyu Islands issue is the after-effects of the Japanese militarists' invasion of China, and has a lot to do with the Cold War climate. It was not until the 1960s and 1970s that disputes over the Nansha Islands started to crop up. Before that, the Nansha Islands were generally marked as Chinese territory on maps published throughout the world. When oil and gas resources were discovered in abundance in those waters, some neighboring countries began to claim sovereignty over Chinese Nansha Islands and islets, even going so far as to illegally occupy some of them. These venal and reneging actions are bound to meet with strong opposition from China.

What is China's stance on these disputes?

The Chinese Government has always maintained that the Diaoyu Islands and the Nansha Islands are all Chinese territories, and that their illegal invasion or control by any other country cannot change that fact. We are firmly opposed to violation of China's sovereignty by any country, and we have made stern representations with the countries that have done so.

In the meantime, China has committed itself to resolving the disputes through direct negotiations and friendly consultations on the basis of respecting history and the international law, and it has advocated the principle of "shelving disputes and going in for joint development." This principle helps develop relations between China and its neighboring countries and promote regional peace and common prosperity, which meets the interests of all countries in the region, including China.

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