A military spokesman on Tuesday warned foreign countries to avoid interfering with territorial disputes between China and its neighbors regarding the South China Sea.
On the eve of the 85th founding anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the Chinese government held an unprecedented press conference by inviting five senior officers with the PLA’s four headquarters to meet the press.
“We oppose any country outside the region intervening in these disputes,” Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said on the sidelines of the conference.
“Any intervention by countries outside the region will complicate the problem and even deteriorate the situation,” Geng said, calling for bilateral dialogue and negotiations to solve disputes in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea.
The spokesman said disputes in the South China Sea mainly revolve around sovereignty and sea delimitation.
“China will continue to seek appropriate solutions through bilateral negotiations and consultations with parties directly involved in the disputes,” Geng said.
Tensions have risen in the South China Sea, where China, Vietnam, the Philippines and other several countries in the region have made overlapping territorial claims over multiple islands.
On April 10, a Philippine warship harassed 12 Chinese fishing vessels that had sailed near Huangyan Island to seek shelter from inclement weather, triggering a months-long maritime standoff near the island.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has expressed willingness to use force to resolve territorial disputes with China regarding Diaoyu Island in the East China Sea.
Geng, who is also a senior colonel in the PLA, said the official’s remarks were irresponsible and deserved objection.
“Safeguarding national sovereignty and maritime interests is a common responsibility shared by China’s armed forces,” he said. “We will cooperate with other agencies to perform our duties.”According to the spokesman, a regular combat-readiness patrol system has been established in waters under China’s jurisdiction.
“The Chinese navy is justified in protecting the country’s interests, and it is groundless to equate such a justified action with tough foreign policy,” he said, denying that China is shifting to a more assertive diplomatic approach.
Geng also said the recent establishment of the Sansha garrison in the South China Sea was in line with the country’s regulations for local administration and structure of its armed forces.
“China always advocates the peaceful settlement of international disputes and resorts to dialogue and negotiation on the basis of equality to resolve conflicts and problems, while it opposes the application of force,” Sr. Col. Wu Xihua, vice director of the emergency response office of the PLA’s General Staff Headquarters, said at the press conference.
Col. Lin Bai with the General Armament Department of the People’s Liberation Army noted that China will not engage in an arms race.
“We will develop armaments appropriately in accordance with the needs of safeguarding state sovereignty and territorial integrity, as China will continue to take the path of peaceful development,” said Lin.
Lin added that China’s military upgrades are in line with national needs and interests, as well as conform with international practices.
“We have reinforced our efforts in the construction of armament and developed some new weapons accordingly, but compared with global levels, we still lag behind in terms of technical features and quantity,” said Lin.
Geng said China will always be an important player in maintaining world peace and regional stability.
Sr. Col. Wang Yongsheng from the PLA’s General Political Department said the absolute leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has remained an unswerving fundamental principle since the founding of the PLA.
“The PLA was founded by, and is under the leadership of, the Communist Party of China, and the CPC’s absolute leadership over the army is the army’s fundamental system and principle,” said Wang.
“Our army belongs to the Party, but it also belongs to the state and to the people,” he said.
Wang said criticism by other countries has spread some erroneous ideas, such as suggestions that the military should have no political affiliation.