China on Tuesday set up an organizing committee for the legislative body of Sansha, officially beginning the formation of the government of the newly established city that will administer the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands and the surrounding waters in the South China Sea.

The move demonstrates China's resolve to safeguard its territorial sovereignty.

China has indisputable sovereignty over the islands and the adjacent waters in the South China Sea, which is in line with the spirit of the "land dominates the sea" of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and supported by historical and present evidence.

However, some countries that have island disputes with China, such as Vietnam and the Philippines, have repeatedly taken provocative actions despite the related countries agreeing to "undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability" under the Declaration on the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea signed by China and ASEAN countries in 2002.

Vietnam and the Philippines have tried to strengthen their claims to China's territory through a series of intrusions, such as stationing troops and constructing civilian structures on the islands. Vietnam even ratified its own maritime law in June which intrudes on China's territory sovereignty by putting China's Xisha Islands and Nansha Islands under Vietnam's sovereignty and jurisdiction.

Vietnam's provocative actions are in violation of international laws.

Over the last 30 years, Vietnam has also taken the lead in exploring for gas and oil in the South China Sea.

In the 1970s, Vietnam and Japan reached an agreement to jointly explore for oil in the South China Sea. Then in the 1980s, the Soviet Union and Vietnam agreed to jointly exploit the Bach Ho oilfield. In 2008, Vietnam and the US corporation ExxonMobil agreed on an initial exploration of oil and natural gas resources in the sea. In April 2012, despite strong opposition from China, Vietnam granted the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Videsh of India the rights to explore for oil in disputed areas in South China Sea.

As a responsible power, China shoulders its responsibility to safeguard peace and regional stability and it has always shown the utmost restraint in dealing with the disputes.

However, in the face of the escalating intrusions by Vietnam and the Philippines, China should pay more attention to safeguarding its maritime sovereignty. China must stand firm on issues concerning sovereignty.

China has recently implemented a series of actions to protect its sovereignty. For example, China National Offshore Oil Corporation has declared it will drill and invite bids for oil exploitation in the South China Sea and it has stepped up patrols by marine surveillance ships and fishery patrol boats.

Sansha is another demonstration of China's resolve to safeguard its territorial sovereignty. The founding of Sansha will improve China's management of the region and help coordinate efforts to develop the islands.

The organizing committee for the legislative body of Sansha will organize the first city congress of Sansha, which is now not only China's southernmost city, but also the one with the smallest land area and the largest ocean area.

China has also announced that four zones of the Xisha Islands are to be cultural heritage protection areas and nine zones in the South China Sea are to be opened to joint exploration and exploitation with foreign companies.

It is justified for China to protect its sovereignty and assert jurisdiction over its territory. This is an internal affair and external powers should not interfere.

From a regional perspective, for Hainan province, exploring the resources in the South China Sea will help to realize the established aim of international tourism island. The National Tourism Administration and Hainan province are planning to promote tourism in Xisha Islands.

China has turned a new leaf in asserting its sovereignty and jurisdiction of the South China Sea. Hope lies ahead.

The author is a researcher on political studies at Hainan Provincial Party School. 

SOURCE: China Daily
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