US, Japan should cease interfering in South China Sea issue

China Military Online
Chen Zhuo
2024-04-17 18:04:30

By Lin Yongxin

On April 10, the leaders of the US and Japan issued a joint statement at their meeting in Washington. As countries outside the South China Sea, the US and Japan mentioned the issue concerning this region multiple times in the statement. They oppose the so-called "militarization of disputed features" and the "dangerous use of coast guard vessels and maritime militia", claim that the 2016 South China Sea Arbitration Award is legally binding on the parties to that proceeding", and "resolve to work with ASEAN partners to support regional maritime security and uphold international law". The statements of the two countries ignore facts, misconstrue ideas, and distort China's claims and practices in the South China Sea.

First, the statement disregards China's indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters. China's activities in the South China Sea are based on long-standing historical practices and historic rights and align with international legal principles. The Chinese people have a history of more than 2,000 years of engagement in the South China Sea. China was the first country to discover, name, and exploit the islands and related sea areas in the South China Sea, and has continuously, peacefully, and effectively exercised sovereignty and jurisdiction over them.

The statement negatively characterizes China's Coast Guard (CCG) and maritime militia in the South China Sea, referring to their normal rights protection, law enforcement, and fishery production behaviors as "dangerous use". Their purpose is to undermine the underlying logic of China's lawful claims in the South China Sea by emphasizing the legal effect of the so-called arbitration award in the region.

Second, the statement ignores China's unwavering efforts and contributions to maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea. The US and Japan attempt to smear China as the instigator of the unrest in the region. Since last year, the Philippines has repeatedly conducted secret operations to transport and reinforce construction materials to China's Ren'ai Jiao, violating the provisions of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), illegally trespassing on China's Tiexian Jiao and encroaching upon the adjacent waters of Houteng Jiao. As the largest coastal state in the South China Sea, China has always regarded the preservation of peace and stability in the region as its mission and has made relentless efforts to manage the issue and promote cooperation properly.

Based on the South China Sea issue, China has specifically proposed that relevant disputes should be peacefully resolved through friendly consultation and negotiation by the directly involved countries, while jointly safeguarding peace and stability in the South China Sea with ASEAN countries. Regarding the establishment of dialogue mechanisms with the directly involved countries, China has respectively established bilateral consultation mechanisms on maritime issues with Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia, aiming to bring the South China Sea disputes onto the track of friendly consultation and negotiation.

It is worth mentioning that for the establishment of more stable and effective regional rules and to safeguard the peace and stability of the South China Sea region, China and ASEAN countries have been continuously promoting consultations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) based on the implementation of the DOC. Currently, the text of the COC has entered the third reading stage.

Third, the statement neglects the collective demands for national security and development of countries in the South China Sea region. Over the past decade or so, the US has consistently played a role in the escalating tensions in the South China Sea. Within the US's geopolitical strategy, the South China Sea issue is merely a crucial part of its containment strategy to uphold its global hegemony. The US violates its public commitment to "not taking a stance on the sovereignty issue in the South China Sea" and openly supports the Philippines' provocative actions that jeopardize the security of the South China Sea. Through maintaining high-intensity and frequent close reconnaissance, exercises, and military infrastructure development in the South China Sea, it aims to enhance its military deterrence against China.

According to An Incomplete Report on US Military Activities in the South China Sea in 2023 released by the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative, the US military carried out a total of 107 large-scale exercises and drills in the South China Sea and its surrounding areas in 2023. Aircraft carrier strike groups entered and left the South China Sea 11 times. At the same time, Japan followed suit, continuously strengthening military cooperation and assistance with the Philippines and other countries, and conducting joint military exercises with the US and the Philippines in the South China Sea region.

The US-Japan psychology and behavior that provoke confrontation in the South China Sea will undoubtedly escalate tensions in the region, causing harm to peace and stability in the South China Sea. As countries outside this region, the US and Japan should respect the choices made by countries in the South China Sea region to negotiate rules and maintain peace and stability in the area. They should immediately cease their disruptive acts of provoking confrontation.

(The author is the Director of the Research Center for Maritime Silk Road, National Institute for South China Sea Studies.)

Editor's note: Originally published on, this article is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online. The information and opinions in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of

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