China respects “real freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said on Tuesday, in response to U.S. President Obama’s suggestion that Beijing is pushing its rivals out of disputed territory.
During his visit to Vietnam earlier on Tuesday, Obama stressed that “big nations should not bully smaller ones” and added that the U.S. will continue to freely navigate the region and support the right of other countries to do the same.
Spokeswoman Hua Chunying stressed that China does not welcome “the privilege of US warships and military planes to sail or overfly at its will” in the controversial territory.
Q: President Barack Obama spoke in Vietnam earlier today and brought about the South China Sea territorial disputes. While admitting that the U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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.
Source: China Foreign Ministry
Story by the Associated Press and China Foreign Ministry.