The Interview of Ambassador Huang Xilian on the South China Sea Issue by the Nation, Thailand

Many people have been following closely the South China Sea issue. Yet a tendency needs to be alerted and rectified, i.e., to focus on disputes while neglecting consensus, as some are used to watching difference and disputes with a magnifier and downsizing achievements and progress with a filter.

With joint efforts of China and ASEAN countries, the situation in the SCS has been effectively managed and demonstrated an easing and positive momentum. Consultation on the code of conduct (COC) has witnessed continued progress, and maritime cooperation has yielded a number of gratifying results. These achievements have not been easily won and deserve to be cherished and upheld by all regional countries, as well as other parties outside the region.

On the SCS issue, China has been a strong supporter of the Dual-track approach initiated by the ASEAN countries, that is, disputes should be addressed through negotiations and consultations by countries directly involved, and peace and stability of the SCS should be jointly maintained by China and ASEAN countries.

With this as a general guidance, China has been steadily pushing forward consultations on COC under the framework of the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the SCS (DOC), and actively exploring pragmatic maritime cooperation. These two wheels have been going ahead together and both made a lot of progress.

Encouraging and visible progress has been achieved on the consultation on COC. 15 Senior Officials' Meetings and 24 Joint Working Group Meetings on the implementation of the DOC have been held to date. This mechanism has become the most effective platform to maintain peace and stability in the SCS through enhanced dialogue and cooperation.

The Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi and foreign ministers of ASEAN countries announced the completion of the Framework of the COC in August 2017. China and ASEAN countries started substantial negotiation on the COC text in March this year. At the Senior Officials' Meeting on the implementation of the DOC at the end of June, it was agreed by all parties that a single negotiation draft text will be formed as soon as possible as the basis for the following negotiation.

It is a testament that China and ASEAN countries have the wisdom and ability to craft out rules and properly manage the disputes for the sake of peace and stability in the SCS. China and ASEAN countries will continue to fully and effectively implement the DOC and endeavor to reach a COC at an early date on the basis of consensus. We also hope that countries outside the region could play a constructive role in this process and contribute to peace and stability in the SCS region.

At the same time, the wheel of maritime cooperation has been spinning at a higher speed. Here are just a few examples:

—To prevent incidents and manage the situation, we issued the Joint Statement on the Application of the Code of Unplanned Encounters at Sea in the SCS and launched the Hotline platform among Senior Officials of the MFA of China and ASEAN countries in Response to Maritime Emergencies.

—We issued the Declaration for a Decade of Coastal and Marine Environmental Protection in the SCS (2017-2027)and now are pressing ahead with implementation, aiming at enhancing cooperation on maritime environment to safeguard a clean and beautiful SCS and protect its eco-system.

—To strengthen the capacity building on maritime rescue, China and ASEAN countries started the building of the hotline platform for maritime search and rescue, and held the first ever large-scale Joint Exercise on Maritime Search and Rescue. These measures have played important roles on maintaining safety and stability in the SCS, and formed a sound interaction with the consultation on COC as the two simultaneously rotating wheels.

Furthermore, we are also planning to conduct more maritime cooperation programs with ASEAN countries, including the first China-ASEAN Joint Maritime Drill, China-ASEAN Marine Information Technology Cooperative Research Project, Workshop on cooperation on Coastal Ecosystem Health Assessment and Conservation Strategy in the SCS, Workshop on Ocean Acidification Training, Training on the Satellite Remote Sensing of Marine Ecological Environment, and Workshop on the Safety of Navigation and Communication at Sea.

All this has demonstrated the constructive efforts by China and ASEAN countries on maintaining the peace and stability of the SCS, and deserve the attention and encouragement from the international society, especially from the media.

To maintain peace and stability of the SCS is the common aspiration and responsibility of China and ASEAN countries, and serves the interests of the international society as a whole. We are ready to enhance dialogue and cooperation with ASEAN countries to make the two wheels running better, promote economic development, protect maritime eco-system and environment, safeguard navigation safety and freedom in the SCS, and draft regional rules which will meet our region's imperatives and be adhered by all, so as to build the SCS into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation.

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