China-US relations shouldn't be hijacked by South China Sea issue: ambassador

Updated: 2016-06-02 09:53


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China-US relations shouldn't be hijacked by South China Sea issue: ambassador

File photo shows Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai addresses at the the 2016 New Year Celebration Gala Dinner of The China General Chamber of Commerce, USA on Jan 20, 2016. [Photo/Xinhua]

WASHINGTON - The China-US relations are too important that they should not be allowed to be hijacked by the South China Sea issue, Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai said Wednesday.

In an opinion piece published on, Cui pointed out that China and the US share important interests, and they "have significant potential for cooperation."

"We may have major differences, but we also share important interests, including maintaining regional peace and stability, supporting freedom of navigation and overflight in accordance with international law, and resolving disputes through peaceful negotiations and diplomatic dialogue," Cui wrote.

"The region should not become a competing ground for China and the US," he added.

Cui mentioned that some of the perceptions in the United States and elsewhere about China's policy and intentions in the area "are misplaced."

"A pressing task is to understand the facts and China's intentions correctly so as to avoid real danger and consequences as a result of misinterpretation and miscalculation," Cui emphasized.

China believes it is doing nothing more than maintaining and defending legitimate territorial claims and maritime rights in the South China Sea, and its reclamation and construction activities are mainly for civilian purposes and public good, the ambassador said.

He refuted the US accusations against China of the so-called "militarization" of the area, saying that there are only "limited defense facilities" on the islands and reefs that have long been under China's control.

"We believe that recent statements and military deployments by the US have had the effect of escalating tension in the region and, if not curbed, risk the very militarization we all wish to avoid," Cui warned.

On the arbitration case initiated unilaterally by the Philippines, Cui criticized the US for seeking to use the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) against China while itself refuses to ratify the treaty.

The concept of "freedom of navigation" is frequently used to justify actions by the US in the South China Sea, Cui said, calling it "an additional irony."

The US has used "freedom of navigation" operations to challenge the very concept as it was defined by the UNCLOS, believing treaty provisions would restrict its navy's ability to move freely around the world, he said.

Cui expressed his biggest worry that China's policy on the South China Sea has been grossly misperceived as a strategic move to challenge US dominance in the Asia-Pacific region and the world.

"China consistently strives for regional cooperation, and we respect America's traditional presence and legitimate interests in the Asia-Pacific region. The reality is not that China is trying to drive anyone out, but that there are attempts to deny China's legitimate and expanding interests in its own region," Cui said.

He said China has long called for peaceful and direct negotiations with relevant claimant states to manage and eventually resolve the South China Sea disputes, adding that this stance has not changed.

The Chinese envoy remains optimistic about the China-US relations, because the "good news is that leaders in China and the United States have demonstrated the political will to manage our differences and keep them under control."

"We continue to talk. We on the Chinese side are ready to work in a constructive manner -- and we are hopeful that the US will demonstrate the same spirit," Cui added.