Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying's Regular Press Conference on May 24, 2016
Q: We notice that vice foreign ministers of China and Vietnam attended a sum-up meeting on the implementation of the three legal documents on the China-Vietnam land border today in Nanning, Guangxi. Please share with us more details.
A: On November 18, 2009, China and Vietnam officially signed the China-Vietnam Land Border Demarcation Protocol, the China-Vietnam Land Border Management System Agreement and the China-Vietnam Land Border Port and Management System Agreement, followed by the demarcation negotiation and exploration and placing of border markers by China and Vietnam. Ever since these three documents took force, bilateral cooperation on border issues has borne fruits. The boundary line between China and Vietnam remains clear and unaltered, the border area in good order and people and business interactions frequently seen. During President Xi Jinping's visit to Vietnam last November, the two leaders agreed to review the implementation of the aforementioned three legal documents.
And today a sum-up meeting was convened in Nanning, Guangxi by China and Vietnam on the implementation of the three legal instruments. Vice Foreign Minister of China Liu Zhenmin and his Vietnamese counterpart Le Hoai Trung co-hosted the meeting and delivered key-note speeches. Around 100 people, including competent authorities on the boundary issues, representatives from border provinces and regions, think tanks and scholars, as well journalists from the two countries all attended the meeting. The two sides looked back and ahead on the implementation of the three documents, opening of border ports and facilitation of clearance, cross-border cooperation on economy and tourism, as well as connectivity and infrastructure building along the border area. Attendees from both sides acknowledged the historic contribution and significance of the three documents to bilateral land border cooperation and bilateral relationship, highlighting this meeting as a shining example of the peaceful settlement of disputes through negotiation and consultation by China and Vietnam, and agreeing to continuously implement the three documents and jointly manage and utilize the boundary.
China and Vietnam are friendly neighbors connected by mountains and rivers. Pursuant to the spirit of being good comrades, partners, neighbors and friends as well as the principle of seeking long-term stability, good-neighborliness and comprehensive cooperation while looking into the future, China is willing to work with Vietnam to implement the three legal documents, elevate boundary management and cooperation and take bigger strides to develop China-Vietnam relations.
Q: On May 23, the Taiwan authority said that "it does not take a particular stance in legal terms" on whether Okinotori is an island or a reef. It is commented that the new Taiwan administration has gone backwards on the issue of Okinotori, undermining the rights and interests of Taiwan fishermen. How do you comment?
A: Okinotori is an isolated reef in the west Pacific distant from the Japanese soil. Pursuant to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Okinotori cannot have the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf. Waters off 12 nautical miles of it are high seas, where all countries are entitled to freedoms on the high seas such as fishing and so forth. On April 2012, the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) adopted the recommendations in regard to the submission made by Japan on the outer limits of its continental shelf, rebuffing Japan's illegal claims based on Okinotori.
I also want to point out that the above-water area of Okinotori is less than 10 square meters at high tide, or no bigger than two beds as some people put it. Japan's illegal and greedy claim of jurisdiction over 700,000 square kilometers merely based on two beds constitutes a grave encroachment on the high seas and international seabed area, and also puts international interests at great danger. Japan repeatedly declares itself as a champion of international law, and we hope it would live up to its own words and abide by the law.
Q: President Barack Obama spoke in Vietnam earlier today and brought about the South China Sea territorial disputes. While admitting that the US is not a claimant, he said he would uphold the key principles of freedom of navigation and regional order together with his partners. He also mentioned that countries, large or small, should have their sovereignty respected, and that big nations should not bully small ones. Do you have any comment on President Obama's remarks?
A: Here is my response.
First, every time the US brings about freedom of navigation, I think it should first make clear whether it is talking about the real freedom of navigation enjoyed by all countries under international law or a "freedom" exclusive to the US military vessels and planes to do whatever they want. If it is the first one, we will surely welcome and stand for it. Otherwise, I believe the entire world would say no to it.
Second, China and ASEAN countries have inked a series of bilateral and regional consensus on resolving disputes through negotiation and consultation and jointly maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea, which forge the foundation of rules and order in this area. Countries outside the region should respect regional countries' efforts to safeguard peace and stability, and respect regional rules and order set up by regional countries under international law. What they should not do is to threaten littoral countries' sovereignty and security in any form and under any excuse, jeopardize regional rules and order and undermine regional peace and stability.
Third, I can't help but noticing that the US and certain countries talk about big or small countries over and over again. It is our position that a country should not be judged right or wrong merely based on its size. Since the founding of the new China, we have defined the shared boundary with 12 out of our 14 land neighbors through bilateral negotiation and consultation based on historical facts and basic principles of international law. Speaking of size, 5 out of these 12 countries are smaller than the Philippines which is now at odds with China on the South China Sea issue. In terms of population, 10 countries are less populous than the Philippines. What I am trying to say here is that a country's size is not the crux of relevant issue. What really matters is the sincerity and resolve of countries concerned to jointly settle mutual disputes through negotiation and consultation.
The Foreign Ministry and the Municipal Government of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region will host a second round of global promotion of China's provinces and municipalities under the theme of "an open China: Guangxi going global" at the Blue Room of the Foreign Ministry at 10 a.m. May 27. Foreign Minister Wang Yi will address the event, Party Secretary Peng Qinghua and Chairman Chen Wu of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region will deliver speeches and do promotions respectively, and some foreign ambassadors as well as representatives from the business and other sectors in China will also speak and interact with the attendees. You are welcome to report this event upon invitation.