Reducing its rhetoric on the South China Sea dispute amid growing tensions with the United States, China today said it would not use force “irresponsibly” to resolve disputes and would not propose joint defense exercises with ASEAN nations for unplanned and accidental military meetings at sea.
Fan Sanglong, Vice President of the Central Military Commission of China (CMC), said that China always insists on resolving differences and disputes through friendly talks with the parties directly involved and will do its utmost to avoid unforeseen conflicts. The CMC is the overall command body of the Chinese military. Its chairman is Xi Jinping.
“China has always insisted on dealing with disputes with peaceful practices and will not use force irresponsibly when it comes to territory and sovereignty issues,” the fan quoted one of the top officials as saying. The Sixth Xiangson Forum is a security forum similar to Singapore’s Shangri-La Dialog.
The fan said that China had resolved land and border issues in consultation with the majority of its neighbors. China has resolved border issues with 12 of its 14 neighbors, except India and Bhutan. He also defended lighthouses and other infrastructure construction on disputed islands in the South China Sea (SCS).
Infrastructure often serves civilian purposes, which not only improves maritime navigation but also provides more public services, he said. China is seeking sovereignty over the entire South China Sea, which is strongly opposed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. All five countries have put forward China’s demand for US support.
The forum is organized annually by the Chinese military to enhance liaison between security officials and agencies of various countries. Indian security officials have also been invited to participate. As tensions over the SCS escalate this year, China has invited defense ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members, most of whom are members of the SCS controversy.
During a separate meeting with ASEAN defense ministers yesterday, another vice-president of the CMC, Xu Kiliang, proposed that the partners in the SCS dispute should handle disputes collectively and systematically, controlling risks without the involvement of outsiders. He said China was ready to conduct joint exercises for maritime search and rescue and disaster relief joint training at sea (CUES) with ASEAN countries in 2016 in an effort to tackle common risks and challenges.
To better implement the code, the navies of China and the United States drilled together in the East Pacific last year.