Minister proposes joint rescue drills with ASEAN in South China Sea

By Jiang Jie Source:Global Times Published: 2015-10-17 0:58:01

China on Friday proposed holding joint drills in the South China Sea on maritime accidental encounter and search and rescue in 2016 with members of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN).

Analysts said this cooperative mechanism could help enhance China-ASEAN relations when combined with dialogues between officials and scholars to dispel doubts amid disputes in the South China Sea.

Addressing his counterparts from ASEAN countries at the informal summit on Friday in Beijing, Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan called for other defense chiefs to work together to boost cooperation, while properly handling differences to face common challenges.

Chang also called for maintaining the informal summit as a dialogue channel, as he urged militaries of all 11 countries to contribute to closer ties between China and ASEAN, the China National Radio reported.

China's relations with some Southeast Asian countries, especially the Philippines and Vietnam, have been strained over the South China Sea.

As China completed its land reclamation in the waters, Washington recently announced to conduct freedom-of-navigation operations near Chinese islands.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has repeatedly said that construction work is mostly for civilian purposes, and has warned that Beijing would not stand for violations of "its territorial waters" in the name of freedom of navigation.

"China's actions in South China Sea are justifiable and beneficial to safeguarding free navigation in the waters. It also shows China's responsibility as a major power to maintain stability in the region with controlled differences," Wang Xiaopeng, a maritime border expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Friday.

Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia, addresses scholars and officials from 49 countries at the welcome dinner of the sixth Xiangshan Forum in Beijing on Friday. The number of participants for the forum will see a record high of 500 people this year. Photo: Huang Jingjing/GT

Strategic forum

Meanwhile, the defense chiefs of ASEAN countries will also participate in the sixth Xiangshan Forum, which kicked off on Friday evening with a record high participation of foreign experts and government delegations.

Jointly organized by the China Association for Military Science and China International Institute for Strategic Society, the three-day forum will welcome some 500 participants this year, over 400 of whom are overseas scholars or officials from 49 countries.

Apart from the defense heads of 16 countries, Anatoly Antonov, the deputy defense minister of Russia, will give speech at the forum for the first time. Government delegations from the US, the UK, Japan, France and Germany will also debut at the forum.

Addressing the welcome dinner, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said the Xiangshan Forum will make a valuable contribution to building trust and fostering confidence by improving information exchanges and dialogues on the security and development of the Asia-Pacific region, which has become "the leading region for global economic recovery and the catalyst for political stability in the region" thanks to China's economic growth.

"As China expands its influence in the global arena, the Xiangshan Forum is also attracting wider attention with more countries' participation. China needs a platform to voice our stances amid the rising global concerns about our nation," Senior Colonel Li Shuyin, who is also an expert at the Academy of Military Science of the People's Liberation Army, told the Global Times on Friday. "We cannot silent our opinions in the face of others' doubts and delusions."

The forum was launched in 2006 and has been held once every two years from 2006 to 2014. From this year the event will be held annually.

Themed around security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific, this year's panel discussions include seven topics including regional counterterrorism cooperation, ASEAN community building and a code of conduct in cyberspace.

A first-time participant of the forum, Herry Darwanto, an advisor to Indonesia's Minister of Defense on economic affairs, told the Global Times on Friday that he is looking forward to seeking partnerships and sharing experience in fighting against inter-regional terrorism and smuggling.

Niklas Swanström, director of the Institute for Security and Development Policy of Sweden, told the Global Times that security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific has been lagging behind cooperation. The deficit of constructive security dialogue hampers other interactions; hence the full potential of economic cooperation cannot be used.

"It is our initial intention to dispel doubts and gradually build trust by exchanging ideas at such a forum," Li remarked, calling for an end to Cold War mind-set and deal with global challenges together.

Echoing Li, Wang said that both the informal meeting and the forum are part of the efforts to institutionalize and normalize cooperation so as to accumulate consensus.

Li Aixin, Liu Caiyu, Huang Jingjing contributed to the story

Posted in: Diplomacy

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