Chinese general refutes US Defense Secretary's remarks concerning 'militarization' of South China Sea

By Liu Jianxi in Singapore Source:Global Times Published: 2018/6/2 18:20:58

A Chinese general on Saturday refuted remarks by US Defense Secretary James Mattis, who slammed China on the South China Sea issue at this year's Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) in Singapore. 

"China's continued militarization" in the South China Sea is the key reason that the US disinvited the country to the Rim of the Pacific Exercise, Mattis said, stressing that "China's policy… stands in stark contrast to the openness our strategy promises. It calls into question China's broader goals."

Such provocative remarks were immediately refuted by Lieutenant-General He Lei, deputy head of the Academy of Military Sciences of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and leader of the Chinese delegation to this year's SLD. 

"It is those that are shouting about 'the militarization of the South China Sea' who are militarizing the South China Sea," He said in a press conference later the same day. 

He stressed that China's deployment of necessary and limited homeland defense facilities on its own islands and reefs in the South China Sea is in accordance with international law. 

"Certain countries, under the guise of so-called 'freedom of navigation' and 'freedom of aviation,' have sent military vessels and aircraft to the waters and airspace near China's territory, even sailing within 12 nautical miles of Chinese waters. This has jeopardized China's security and challenged China's sovereignty," He said, highlighting that such acts "are the true root of the militarization of the South China Sea."

The lieutenant-general reiterated that various islands in the South China Sea and their related waters are sacred territories of China acknowledged by history and international laws. 

"China proposes that, on the basis of history and international laws, disputes be addressed by peaceful means between China and South China Sea claimants," He said.

Mattis also talked about the Taiwan question in his speech at SLD.

"The US is committed to working with Taiwan to provide articles and services needed for its self-defense," Mattis said. 

The Chinese general contradicted this statement, reiterating that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China and that "the Taiwan question is a bottom line  that cannot be touched or challenged." 

China firmly opposes arms sales to Taiwan and any official connections with the island, He said, stressing that "the Chinese People's Liberation Army has the determination, confidence and capability to safeguard China's sovereignty, unity and developmental interests."

Commenting on Sino-US ties, He said that the two countries shoulder significant responsibilities for regional and global peace and stability and that the Chinese government and people treasure and attach great importance to Beijing-Washington relations. He also praised the progress bilateral ties have experienced during US President Donald Trump's term in office: "Chinese President Xi Jinping and Trump have established sound working relations and a personal friendship. This establishes the direction and lays the basis for the development of Sino-US ties."

In his speech, Mattis expressed his hopes for strengthening mutual strategic trust with Beijing during his upcoming China trip. The lieutenant-general said he welcomes Mattis' visit, which could take place in June.

"We hope China and the US can work together to push their bilateral ties to a new level and contribute to global and regional stability," He said.

Posted in: POLITICS

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