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Dialogue the right way to resolve disputes: China Daily editorial | Updated: 2023-12-07 21:10
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Ren'ai Reef [File photo/]

Addressing a plenary meeting of the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, China's Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Geng Shuang stressed that China respects all countries' freedom of navigation in the South China Sea in accordance with international law, but firmly opposes any country using this as a pretext to undermine China's sovereignty and security interests.

His reiteration of China's stance is timely, since the situation in the South China Sea has once again become increasingly turbulent after a lull in the past few years. The cause of this turbulence is the Philippines, which, as a result of United States' agitation, has chosen to make waves again in the waters.

Emboldened by Washington's support, Manila has been using freedom of navigation as a pretext to encroach upon China's territorial integrity and maritime interests in the South China Sea. Its blatant attempt to assert the Philippines' unfounded and illegal claim to Ren'ai Reef has naturally raised the hackles of Beijing. Ren'ai Reef has always been an integral part of China's Nansha Islands. But in 1999, the Philippines illegally grounded a World War II-era warship there with the obvious purpose of creating the fait accompli that the reef belongs to the Philippines. Since then, Manila has repeatedly promised to remove the warship, but it never fulfilled that pledge.

This year, fearing the disintegration of the vessel, Manila has attempted to transport construction materials to the grounded warship several times in order to ensure it has permanent, illegal occupation of Ren'ai Reef. Its moves have naturally met with strong opposition from China.

Having spurred Manila's actions, the US has even sent a Navy ship to illegally intrude into waters adjacent to Ren'ai Reef in order to ensure that Manila has no loss of nerve.

Against this backdrop, Geng's reiteration that China is committed to resolving the territorial dispute with the Philippines through dialogue and consultation, and is willing to negotiate with the Philippines on the management and control of the situation at Ren'ai Reef, shows it is responsibly bearing the bigger picture of regional peace and stability in mind.

To justify their actions, Manila and Washington point to the so-called judgment in the South China Sea arbitration that was unilaterally initiated by the Philippines, in which the arbitral tribunal exceeded its jurisdiction and issued an unjust ruling. China, as was its right, did not accept or participate in the arbitration. Since the arbitration has no validity, China does not accept or recognize the so-called award, as well as any claims and actions based on it. As Geng said, negotiation and consultation are the realistic and effective ways for the Philippines and China to resolve the dispute.

Meanwhile, the onus is on the Philippines and the US to stop stirring up trouble in the South China Sea so that countries in the region can focus all their energy on completing the formulation of a Code of Conduct in the waters at an early date.

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