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TIMELINE: Chinese reiterations of “indisputable sovereignty” over S. China Sea

Updated On: Sep 15, 2011

China has frequently insisted on its "indisputable sovereignty" over "islands and surrounding waters" in the South China Sea, a claim made repeatedly in Chinese news outlets. This claim is a major source of contention between China and the Southeast Asian countries of Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia. A war of words has erupted over the dispute, with Chinese spokespeople and the Chinese media making repeated claims over disputed areas of the South China Sea.

Following are key quotes from the Chinese media regarding its claim over the South China Sea in recent months.

10 Jun 2011
"A Chinese analyst rejected an accusation by Vietnam, defending Chinese actions taken in the South China Sea as regular maritime law enforcement and urging Vietnam to avoid encroaching upon China's territorial sovereignty… China reaffirmed that it has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha, Xisha Islands and their adjacent waters."

Report: China denies Vietnam's accusation on South China Sea (Global Times, 10 Jun 2011)

11 Jun 2011
"A row over sovereignty in the South China Sea has flared up again with Vietnam's decision to hold a live-fire naval drill next week… The incident comes just two weeks after Hanoi claiming Chinese patrol boats cut cables on a Vietnamese survey boat owned by the same company off Vietnam's central coast… In response, China said it had "indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and the adjacent waters," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Thursday."

Report: South China Sea tensions flare again as Vietnam announces naval drill next week(Global Times, 11 Jun 2011)

15 Jun 2011
"Vietnam conducted a military exercise on Monday in an "exclusive economic maritime zone" over which it claims sovereignty, a move [a commentary in the Liberation Army Daily] said will only heighten disputes…Chinese people were the first to discover and develop islands in the South China Sea and had indisputable sovereignty over the islands and their surrounding seawater, the article noted."

Report: No 'meddling' in South China Sea (People’s Daily, 15 Jun 2011)

29 Jun 2011
"China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and their surrounding waters, a Chinese official said in Beijing Wednesday. Safeguarding the sovereignty is a common responsibility for Chinese living on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, Yang Yi, spokesman with the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office, said at a press conference."

Report: China has indisputable sovereignty over South China Sea islands: spokesman(Xinhua, 29 Jun 2011)

31 August 2011
"However, it has to be acknowledged that a stable and sound relationship of the two Asian nations [China and the Philippines] should be underpinned by not only strong trade ties, but also their commitments to a proper settlement of the maritime disputes in the South China Sea. China has always made itself loud and clear that it has indisputable sovereignty over the sea's islands and surrounding waters, which is part of China's core interests. That is based on unambiguous and undeniable historical facts."

Report: China-Philippines cooperation depends on proper settlement of maritime disputes(Xinhua, 31 August 2011)

28 Sep 2011
"Responding to the Japan-Philippines meeting, China's foreign ministry on Tuesday reiterated its claim to the disputed waters in the South China Sea."China has indisputable sovereignty over the island and surrounding waters of the South China Sea," said ministry spokesman Hong Lei in Beijing."
Report: Tokyo and Manila Strengthen Defense Ties With an Eye Toward China (Wall Street Journal, 28 Sep 2011)

"China's military authority on Wednesday repeated its stance on the South China Sea issue, saying attempts to internationalize it would further complicate the issue." Any move, which is designated to multilateralize or internationalize the South China Sea issue, will make the question more complex and neither will it help," Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng told a monthly press briefing.Geng repeated China's "constant" and "clear" stance, saying that China owns the incontestable sovereignty of the islands in the South China Sea and their surrounding waters."
Report: China opposes S China Sea disputes internationalization (China Daily, 28 Sep 2011)

In contrast, responses to China's claim of "undisputable sovereignty" are slightly more varied. Following are responses to this claim.

11 Sep 2011
"…there was a tacit agreement formed among the claimant states and the major user-states of the South China Sea to keep questioning the legal legitimacy of China's claim of so called "9-dotted line" or "9-dashed line" for the South China Sea… China uses this U-shaped, 9-dotted line along the coastal line and the island chains in the South China Sea as the basis for its claim of sovereignty. The encircled area extends to the almost entire South China Sea. According to the official document that Chinese government submitted to the United Nations in 2009 along with a map, Beijing claims to have "indisputable sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and the adjacent waters." It is not clear, however, whether China claims the entire South China Sea inside of the 9-dotted line as its territorial waters or whether its claim of sovereignty extends only to the islands and the adjacent waters."

Analysis: South China Sea disputes: Harbinger of regional strategic shift? (Asahi, Sep 11 2011)

13 Sep 2011
"China’s definition of what constitutes its "core interest" appears to be spreading… last May, Dai Bingguo, China’s senior foreign policy official, is said to have used the term in a meeting with Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, to refer to the South China Sea…to call it a core interest, an area where China could not cede an inch in bilateral negotiations, would be a step up… How else to explain this from a recent Xinhua news agency article ahead of the recent visit by "Noynoy" Benigno Aquino, president of the Philippines, to Beijing [see 31 August Xinhua article above]… If the official news agency does not represent official Chinese policy, who does? Many of the reports about the South China Sea amusingly say that China’s claim is "undisputed". Often, with no acknowledgement of contradiction, they go on to mention the various countries that inexplicably dispute them."

Analysis: China's spreading 'core interests' (Financial Times [blog], 13 Sep 2011)







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