News / Asia

China to Clinton: No Question of Sovereignty Over South China Sea

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (R) and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hold a news conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, September 5, 2012.
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (R) and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hold a news conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, September 5, 2012.
China says there is no questioning its sovereignty over waters and islands in the South China Sea, some of which are claimed by Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan, and the Philippines. But Chinese officials told visiting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that they are willing to work with Southeast Asian nations to resolve the dispute peacefully.

Secretary Clinton discussed the South China Sea disputes with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Foreign Minister Yang Jeichi Wednesday.

China has been critical of outside involvement in the dispute, saying foreign governments are trying to divide the region. Speaking to reporters following their talks, Yang repeated China's insistence that this be resolved by the claimants themselves and made clear that China's position is unassailable.

South China Sea Dispute MapSouth China Sea Dispute Map
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South China Sea Dispute Map
South China Sea Dispute Map
The foreign minister says there is plentiful historic and legal evidence for China's sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and adjacent waters. As for disputes to those claims, he says these should be discussed by those directly concerned on the basis of respect for historic facts and international law, to be settled through "direct negotiation and friendly consultation."

Yang says that the stance is in keeping with a 10-year old "declaration of conduct" between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN.

But the United States believes a more specific "code of conduct" is the way to resolve competing territorial claims on which Secretary Clinton again insisted the Obama administration has no position.

"Our interest is in the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, freedom of navigation, and unimpeded lawful commerce. And as a friend to the countries involved, we do believe it is in everyone's interest that China and ASEAN engage in a diplomatic process toward the shared goal of a code of conduct."

Foreign Minister Yang told Secretary Clinton in July that China will "eventually" agree to open talks with ASEAN members over such a code of conduct. He repeated that promise in Beijing.

  • U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (C) autographs a sack of coffee beans with the flags of East Timor and the U.S. , at the Timor Coffee Cooperative in Dili September 6, 2012.
  • US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a press conference in East Timor, Sept 6, 2012
  • U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (C) shakes hands with staff members next to East Timor's Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao (L) at the Prime Minister's office in Dili September 6, 2012.
  • Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, right, talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after attending a press conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, September 5, 2012.
  • Clinton shakes hands with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing, September 5, 2012.
  • Clinton takes questions from the Chinese press during a joint press conference with her Chinese counterpart at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, September 5, 2012.
  • Clinton meets with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, September 5, 2012.
  • Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi meets with Clinton in Beijing September 4, 2012.
  • Clinton waves as she departs Halim Perdanakusuma International Airport in Jakarta, Indonesia, September 4, 2012.
  • Clinton speaks with ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan during a meeting at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, September 4, 2012.
  • Clinton shakes hands with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono upon her arrival for a bilateral meeting at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, September 4, 2012.
  • Clinton meets with U.S. embassy staff and family members during a meet and greet in Jakarta, September 4, 2012.
  • Clinton speaks with ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan, Jakarta, September 4, 2012.
  • Clinton talks to Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa prior to their meeting in Jakarta, September 3, 2012.

Yang says nowhere do Chinese and U.S. interests converge more closely than in the Asia-Pacific. At a moment when the international situation is undergoing what he calls "profound and complex changes" and prospects for a global economic recovery "are still quite grim," Yang says Beijing hopes to have a positive and pragmatic relationship with Washington.

U.S. involvement in resolving the South China Sea dispute is complicated by Chinese wariness of the Obama administration's greater military and economic involvement in the region, it's so-called "Asia Pivot."

As for U.S. policy toward the Asia-Pacific, Yang says China hopes Washington will make sure that it is conforming "with the trends of the current era" and the general wish of countries in the region to seek peace, development, and cooperation.

Clinton says the United States is not taking sides and only wants to help.

"I believe that with leadership and commitment, China and ASEAN can ramp-up their diplomacy. And the United States stands ready to support that process in any way that would be helpful to the parties," she said.

She is hoping to have some guidelines for resolving the South China Sea dispute in place before November's East Asia Summit in Cambodia.

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by: frank from: C
September 06, 2012 8:39 AM
the USA always tell us whatever China have done,all their fault,China is very poor,CCP official corruption XXX,.we're brainwashed! I beg Americans come to liberate our citizens..uh..wait,what?free America first??? so who can saves us?

In Response

by: fromthemoon from: China
September 07, 2012 10:31 AM
China is just a developing country with lots of hardship and unsatisfying feathers now. But as an independent nation, China has its own just benefits after it has endured too much for decades. During those China-silent years, neighboring nations has robbed many islands in south china sea and east china sea belonging to china historically. Nowadays, China just want to resolve the sovereignty of those debatable islands with neighboring nations peacefully, just like USA which deemed to insert back into Asian-Pacific area from remote America, even more just than the latter.

In Response

by: FreedomSupporter from: USA
September 06, 2012 10:39 AM
China is a beautiful country, with 5000 years of rich history. It is not China I feel opposed to. It is the Chinese Communist Party who oppresses even its own people that I have compassion for. They truly do not know what they do to all of humanity and to the very consciousness of the universe. Love to you, Frank. Nothing but human-to-human love for you. Hardline repression and re-writing history so even China's own people do not know the truths .. is not the way to world peace. I hope you will also one day taste the sweetness of true freedom for yourself. I pray for it.


by: moo m. from: usa
September 06, 2012 7:33 AM
china claims anything have the word china attached are its own ...like south china sea, east china sea, china lake in California (not yet), ... what a barbaric, arrogant, greedy country !

In Response

by: Ian from: USA
September 06, 2012 9:44 AM
The chinese communist government has a scheme of planting their peoples & spies network all over the world . My friend in Brazil said it really already happened there, as well as other south america countries . Supposedly the same thing happens in Africa and Canada, Australia, Europe & our own USA as well


by: Wangchuk from: NYC
September 06, 2012 12:02 AM
This is yet another example of PRC hegemonism. The South China Sea is an int'l body of water, not a Chinese lake. For the PRC to claim sovereignty over the entire sea is a violation of int'l law. The PRC is not the Middle Kingdom & all of Asia are not tributary states. I hope the US and other Asian nations will stand up to the PRC & say hands off the South China Sea.

In Response

by: moo m. from: usa
September 06, 2012 9:35 PM
the chinese government is rich, so rich that it becomes arrogant likes those newly rich bullies. It made china, the menace of the world !

In Response

by: Ian from: USA
September 06, 2012 10:03 AM
This is a typical chinese behaviour. First they encroached other countries' land or sea , or they encouraged their citizens to migrated across the borders, then later claim these area are theirs. Other tactics they also used is pretend to help or claim of liberate the peoples such as the case of Tibet. They invaded & made the country Tibet a region of China .
I pray that one day the Tibetans will be able to throw the chinese out as well as get rid of those communist who collaborate with the enemy and have Tibet nation for themselves .


by: robert edelstein from: florida
September 05, 2012 11:42 PM
its all about oil. in 1991 my company (petrostar energy (usa) inc.) was awarded rights to drill for oil in the spratley region by hanoi. after millions spent and two years of my life finding financing we got a fax from cnooc (chinese national offshore oil co.) to "Cease and Desist" yep, its still all about the oil


by: kirv from: New York
September 05, 2012 10:24 PM
There are hundreds of uninhabitaed islands in the South China Sea. China could be wise and just magnanimously agree to let the other countries each claim a couple of oil-rich islands or two and some territorial waters so that each gets something to make some money off of. They should just agree that all oil and gas development has to be by their own domestic companies, and not by underhanded British or American companies.

In Response

by: Tokyo Boy from: Japan
September 10, 2012 8:50 AM
xiaohai, PRC had already admitted Japanese sovereignty over Senkaku islands on May 20,1920 to Japanese. You don't know it.

In Response

by: moo m. from: usa
September 07, 2012 7:57 AM
xiaohai, is there any doubt in your mind, china government's the moon belongs to the USA ? The America set feet on it first. You want proof ? as far as china is concerned, everyone should have doubted it..what I've heard so far are lies, cheats, intimidations...
China is not a leader, a moral leader that is! just a newly rich bully nothing more !

In Response

by: xiaohai from: china
September 06, 2012 5:43 AM
There is no doubt the South China Sea is part of the People's Republic of China.


by: Matthew Hall from: Cincinnati, Ohio
September 05, 2012 10:06 PM
Wow, the CCP is clearly running scared.


by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
September 05, 2012 7:06 PM
Democratic Taiwan claims the whole South China sea and Diaoyu island.
Given Taiwan is part of China, so no doubt whole South China sea and Diaoyu island belong to China too.

In Response

by: fromthemoon from: China
September 07, 2012 11:16 AM
During the first world war and second world war, Japan has invaded and occupied too many chinese lands through unfair treaties such asTaiwan, and PRC never admitted those cowardly treaties signed by former chinese government. After the war, China got back some of these lands with some still in dispute like the Diaoyu island. China and Japan should resolve the dispute on Diaoyu island through peaceful negotiations other than single side actions.

In Response

by: Tokyo Boy from: Japan
September 06, 2012 6:08 AM
Poor Chinese! You can't access the truth. Have you found People's Daily on Jan 8,1953 and ROC's certificate of appreciation on May 20,1920 to Japanese? China had already agreed Japanese sovereignty over Senkaku islands before.
If you cannnot access the information, you are brain-washed.


by: Sean L. from: Manila
September 05, 2012 2:15 PM
Yes, no question: that China's claim is bogus.


by: TJb from: New Zealand
September 05, 2012 8:10 AM
A bizarre confrontational stance taken by all parties in the region. Given the close proximity of the islands to all parties , no doubt they all have some sort of local claim historically. Surely some shared ownership stewardship is possible? You guys have to live together , no one is going away.


by: Zack Sande from: Nirobi
September 05, 2012 7:04 AM
Chinese Bull in the East China Sea, threatening to smash anyone who stands in their way - might does not make right, China...this is the way to conflict AND YOU WILL NOT WIN, BE WARNED....

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