Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks at a joint news conference with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, Feb 17, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]
Deploying national defense facilities on the Xisha Islands has nothing to do with negotiations over a code of conduct on the South China Sea, China said on Thursday.
The comment was made as Beijing emphasized the efforts made by the country in negotiations to arrive at the code.
Deploying such facilities "is irrelevant to a comprehensive implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, or to the consultations over the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei during a media briefing.
Hong made the remarks in response to speculation that China had deployed missiles on disputed islands in the South China Sea and that the country appeared not to be serious about consultations over the code.
Western media have been following closely China's defense facilities on the Xisha Islands since FoxNews reported on Tuesday that Beijing had deployed a missile system on Yongxing Island in the Xisha Islands.
Hong stressed that the Xisha Islands are China's "inherent territory" and are not so-called disputed islands. Equipping them with defense facilities is not militarization, but a move "within China's sovereignty", Hong said.
In 2002, China and member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
In the declaration, they voiced agreement to work on the basis of consensus for adopting such a code of conduct.
In 2013, China and the ASEAN countries began consultations on the code. Hong said China and ASEAN countries had been actively pushing consultations over the code.
Li Jinming, a professor of maritime policy and law at Xiamen University, said the code of conduct applies only to disputed islands, while the Xisha Islands, which have always been under China's administration, are not disputed.
China had taken "very active steps" and had made many efforts on reaching a code of conduct, but attaining this goal took time, Li said.
"China has always been coordinating, but neighboring countries should also invest in such efforts," he said.
Li added that actions such as making a unilateral request for international arbitration, as the Philippines had done, are against the spirit of negotiations set by the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea signed by China and the ASEAN countries.