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'South China Sea dispute has not disrupted navigation'

Two days after India said the South China Sea belonged to the world, China today reiterated that it had full sovereignty over the Nansha Islands but added that it allowed freedom of navigation in the region. Sutirtho Patranobis reports.

world Updated: Apr 09, 2012 20:21 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Two days after India said the South China Sea (SCS) belonged to the world, China on Monday reiterated that it had full sovereignty over the Nansha Islands but added that it allowed freedom of navigation in the region.

Maintaining that China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands, also claimed by Vietnam and other neighbouring countries bordering the SCS, foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said that China has fully guaranteed the international navigation according to the international law.

In a statement sent to the media on Monday, Weimin, while putting forward China's claim of the islands, said: "As for the freedom of navigation on the South China Sea, I want to point out that such freedom of all countries on the South China Sea has been fully guaranteed according to international law, which is a fact for all to see."

"Anyone who is objective and fair is well aware of this point. The robust economic development of East Asia and Southeast Asia over the years has also demonstrated that the freedom of navigation on the South China Sea has not been affected by the dispute over the Nansha Islands at all," he said.

Weiman was reacting to foreign minister SM Krishna's assertion last week that India maintains that the SCS belonged to the world and its trade ways must be free for international navigation.

"India maintains that South China Sea is the property of the world. I think those tradeways must be free from any nation's interference," he said in Bangalore.

Krishna said that the area should rather be used for increasing trade-related activities amongst nations.

"This has been accepted by Asean countries and by China in their dialogue with the Asean group of nations. India subscribes to the theory that these tradeways should be freeways for trade to prosper," he said.

Krishna himself was reacting to a top Chinese strategist claiming last week that India could have to pay a heavy political and economic price if it got involved in the region; India and Vietnam are gearing up to explore oil and natural gas in the region.

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