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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson's Comment on British First Sea Lord's South China Sea-related Remarks

Q: Britain's First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones said in an interview with the Financial Times that Britain will assert its right to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea despite recent Chinese claims of provocation. He implied that some country has a different interpretation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to the majority of nations. He also said that Britain had an obligation to showcase "physical support" for its allies in the Asia Pacific region and to resist China's flouting of international conventions on the laws of the sea. What is your comment?

A: We have noted relevant reports. We must express our grave concern and firm opposition to the UK's statements quoted by the relevant reports. As we all know, the situation in the South China Sea has been improving and is stable at this point. Both China and ASEAN countries have a strong will to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea and are taking concrete actions to achieve that. Everyone knows clearly that there are still some countries that are reluctant to accept a calm and tranquil South China Sea and have been trying to stir up troubles and create high wind and rough waves in the South China Sea. This British official you cited said that some country has a different interpretation of UNCLOS to the majority of nations. However, can the UK claim itself to be the representative of the majority of the international community? China signed onto UNCLOS when it first opened up for signing. Since then, China has been abiding by it every step of the way, unlike one of those allies the British side mentioned who has yet to ratify the Convention and is still not an official member of UNCLOS. I believe that the British side should have resisted what its ally has done, instead of picking sides and choosing to stand with its ally.

I also want to add that freedom of navigation in the South China Sea has never encountered any problem. Over these years, those who have been concerning themselves with the issue of navigation freedom in the South China Sea have failed to produce a single piece of evidence to prove the existence of any problem. Therefore, the so-called issue of navigation freedom is non-existent. Any move that aims to force or threaten others to accept one's unilateral interpretation of international law under the pretext of navigation freedom is violating international law and international norms.

I would like to remind the British side that the recent trespassing by their HMS Albion into China's territorial waters off the Xisha Qundao has already inflicted damages on China-UK relations. We strongly urge the UK to treat China's concerns seriously and stop such provocative actions.

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