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Botswana’s South Sea comments anger China

Publishing Date : 22 February, 2016


Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi

A 78 words press statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on the South China Sea has rallied China against Botswana. While the statement is lazily relayed, China has taken issue with the “lack of facts” in its context.

Through the release, “the Government of Botswana calls upon all those countries which laid a territorial claim on the Islands in South China Sea to resolve their disputes through International Bodies set up for that purpose.”

It further suggests that “No country, no matter how big its economy or military should impose its power over others to make claims, which may escalate tensions that could result in conflicts. Thus, the peaceful resolution of the current disputes will augur well for international peace and security.”

In a loaded statement of over 1500 characters, the Chinese Embassy in Botswana noted that: “The Embassy of China in Botswana believes that the arguments of the Press Release on South China Sea by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation dated 17 February 2016 are completely contrary to the actual facts.”

The statement further states that China's position on South China Sea is clear and consistent over many decades.

“Our position has not changed and will not change. China has ample historic and legal basis for its sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters. China was the first to discover, name, develop and operate on the Nansha Islands. It is also the first country that exercised and has been exercising sovereign jurisdiction over the islands, which has been long recognized by the international community including the Philippines. China resolutely safeguards national territorial sovereignty, sovereign rights and interests, and remains committed to maintaining regional peace and stability.”

China says with a view to upholding peace and stability in the South China Sea, it has exercised utmost restraint over the past years. “China's approach toward solving the South China Sea issue is to have direct dialogue and negotiation between claimants, which is more effective and sustainable.”

“The South China Sea Islands have been China's territory since ancient times. There is a history of two thousand years since China discovered and named the islands in the South China Sea. As early as the Northern Song Dynasty more than 1000 years ago, the then Chinese government had already established jurisdiction over the Xisha Islands, with regular naval patrols in the area.Successive Chinese governments have exercised continuous jurisdiction over the islands by means of administrative control, military patrol, production and business operations, and maritime disaster relief, among others,” reads a statement from the Chinese Embassy.

“The South China Sea Islands are China's territory. It was not until the 1970s when there were reports about oil under the South China Sea that some countries began to invade and occupy Nansha islands and reefs, undermining China's lawful rights and interests. According to international law, China has the right to defend its sovereignty, rights and interests, and China has the right to prevent the repeat of such illegal moves as encroaching upon China's lawful rights and interests.”

Arbitration Case on South China Sea

At the request of the Republic of the Philippines, International Court of Justice (ICC) has established a Arbitral Tribunal on the South China Sea. However, the Chinese government says it will not accept nor participate in the South China Sea arbitration unilaterally initiated by the Philippines.

“First, China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands and the adjacent waters. As a sovereign state and a State Party to the UNCLOS, China is entitled to choose the means and procedures of dispute settlement of its own will.

China has all along been committed to resolving disputes with its neighbors over territory and maritime jurisdiction through negotiations and consultations. China and the Philippines have repeatedly reaffirmed in bilateral documents since the 1990s and the DOC in 2002 that they shall resolve relevant disputes through negotiations and consultations.”

According to the Chinese government,  “disregarding that the essence of this arbitration case is territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation and related matters, maliciously evading the declaration on optional exceptions made by China in 2006 under Article 298 of the UNCLOS, and negating the consensus between China and the Philippines on resolving relevant disputes through negotiations and consultations, the Philippines and the Arbitral Tribunal have abused relevant procedures, misrepresented the law and obstinately forced ahead with the arbitration, and as a result, have severely violated the legitimate rights that China enjoys as a State Party to the UNCLOS, completely deviated from the purposes and objectives of the UNCLOS, and eroded the integrity and authority of the UNCLOS.”

What could have angered China?

What could have angered China is Botswana’s suggestion that countries involved in the conflict over the South Sea should resolve the dispute through international bodies.

China has made it clear that to will not participate in the arbitration process. On the other hand Botswana appears to have a soft spot for the Philippines. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also suggested that China could be avoiding international bodies because it relies on its big military and huge economy.



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