Defense chief sends China’s clear message

Source:Global Times Published: 2019/6/2 22:18:40

Editor's Note: 

The 18th Shangri-La Dialogue was held in Singapore from May 31 to June 2. Chinese State Councilor and Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe, who is the first Chinese defense chief to attend the Dialogue in eight years, delivered a speech on June 2. Why did China send top-level leaders to the forum this time? What did Wei's remarks on Taiwan, South China Sea and China-US ties convey? The Global Times talked to two Chinese experts on these issues.

Zhang Junshe, research fellow at the Naval Research Academy of the PLA 

Wei's attendance at the event shows the importance China attaches to the Dialogue in 2019, as well as the country's openness.

The speech of Wei better illustrates China's policies and stance to the world. Wei's attendance can also meet the expectations of the international community. In the context of significant changes taking place internationally and the advent of unilateralism and protectionism, China's position and will to safeguard multilateralism and cooperation are vital in addressing the concerns of Asian countries and maintaining global peace and security.

In the speech, Wei said "If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs for national unity." Wei reiterated China's firm position on Taiwan because recently some anti-China forces in the US have been passing bills and making remarks in support of "Taiwan independence," which is an interference in China's internal affairs and challenges China's territorial integrity and sovereignty. Wei's words on Taiwan reveal China's firm stance in safeguarding national unity and China's attitude to the international community, including the US. 

When it comes to the South China Sea, China has adequate historical and legal evidence to prove that the islands and reefs in the water body have been China's territory since ancient times. Just as Wei said, "It is the legitimate right of a sovereign state to carry out construction on its own territory." Such construction on islands and reefs in the region has nothing to do with what the US calls militarization. 

Washington is totally wrong in accusing Beijing of pursuing "militarization." It is the US, not China, which is militarizing the South China Sea. Washington's massive military exercises, increased military deployment and the so-called freedom of navigation in the region are examples of US' militarization and undermine peace and stability of the region.

In terms of China-US ties, Wei said China and the US recognize that military conflicts or even a war between them would bring disaster to both countries and the world. To avoid conflicts, both sides need to respect each other's interests and security concerns, increase communication so as to eliminate misunderstanding and misjudgment.

Zhou Bo, director for Security Cooperation of Office for International Military Cooperation, Ministry of National Defense

Covering hot-button issues including the Taiwan question, South China Sea issue and China-US ties, State Councilor and Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe's speech at the 18th Shangri-La Dialogue has shown to the world China's confidence and responsibility as a great power.

The Taiwan question concerns China's core interest. Wei said frankly, "If the PLA cannot even safeguard the unity of our motherland, what do we need it for?" China's resolve is self-evident.

South China Sea row has been an issue between China and certain ASEAN members. Nonetheless, some countries from outside the region have constantly interfered with regional stability by using their so-called freedom of navigation. In particular, the US, a power previously claimed it would not take sides in South China Sea disputes, has gradually taken center stage in this region.

Since 2015, the US has conducted 18 "free of navigation" operations, with four in 2019 alone. With stronger intervention, the US is becoming the biggest uncertain factor in the South China Sea.

Wei mentioned that military conflicts between China and the US "would bring disaster to both countries and the world." 

The two sides have already reached consensus over the principle of non-conflict and non-confrontation, and established several mechanisms to manage risks and prevent conflicts. 

For example, the two signed the memorandum of understanding on the Rules of Behavior for Safety of Air and Maritime Encounters and agreed on the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea in 2014. But the US has not stopped its provocation in the South China Sea. Hence, both sides should implement these rules more conscientiously and ensure no accidents take place.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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