Ministry of Foreign Affairs

MFA Spokesman's Comments in responses to media queries on the visit of Chinese maritime surveillance vessel Haixun 31 to Singapore

Press release   •   Jun 21, 2011 11:26 +08

In response to media queries on the visit of Chinese maritime surveillance vessel Haixun 31 to Singapore, the MFA Spokesman said:

"There has indeed been an unusual number of enquires about Haixun 31's visit to Singapore. The MPA has made a statement on the purpose of this port call. It is obvious that what ought to have been a routine visit has occasioned a high level of attention because of recent incidents between China and Vietnam and China and the Philippines in the South China Sea (SCS).

Singapore is not a claimant state and takes no position on the merits or otherwise of the various claims in the SCS. But as a major trading nation, Singapore has a critical interest in anything affecting freedom of navigation in all international sea lanes, including those in the SCS.

We have repeatedly said that we think it is in China's own interests to clarify its claims in the SCS with more precision as the current ambiguity as to their extent has caused serious concerns in the international maritime community. The recent incidents have heightened these concerns and raise serious questions in relation to the interpretation of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

This is precisely why this port call in Singapore by the Haixun 31 has provoked such interest. After all scores of vessels from many countries, including naval vessels, call at Singapore every day without arousing the slightest excitement. It is our hope that parties to the disputes in the SCS will act with restraint to create conditions conducive to the peaceful settlement of these disputes and the continuation of peace, stability and growth.

A good start would be the conclusion of the implementation guidelines for the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the SCS (DOC) which has been held up for almost a decade. ASEAN has recently made some new proposals to China to resolve this impasse and we hope that they will be received in the spirit of goodwill and cooperation in which they were offered so that the DOC can be implemented without any further delay. Then perhaps a routine port call will not arouse so much excitement."