Worries over Beijing's maritime ambitions 'unnecessary'

Updated: 2014-04-24 07:01

By Zhao Shengnan in Qingdao, Shandong (China Daily)

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China's efforts to become a maritime power will not lead to maritime hegemony, but the country will never compromise on its sovereignty and national security, a senior Chinese military official said on Wednesday.

"Some people worry that China becoming a strong maritime power means a new hegemony that will harm regional stability and global peace. Such worries are completely unnecessary," said Fan Changlong, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, China's top military authority.

"Never will China follow the path that some major countries took to pursue maritime hegemony and colonization of other countries, or exploitation of their resources" as it is not in China's fundamental interests, he said.

Fan made the remarks during a meeting with more than 20 naval leaders on the sidelines of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium in the port city of Qingdao, Shandong province. Naval chiefs from Japan and the Philippines also attended the meeting.

Calling the Western Pacific a big family with many maritime disputes, Fan urged related parties to handle the disputes with the strategic view of maintaining regional peace and stability.

He stressed China's determination to settle these disputes through peaceful negotiations, as well as to "unswervingly protect our sovereignty rights, national security and development interests".

"No country should expect China to swallow the bitter pill of our sovereignty, national security or development interests being compromised," he said.

Observers said China has shown restraint over the maritime problems to avoid escalating tensions.

The symposium, the first international naval forum held by the PLA navy after President Xi Jinping championed efforts to build the nation into a maritime power last year, was the latest effort by Beijing to better engage with its neighbors.

Member states of the biennial symposium endorsed the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea on Tuesday, a navy-to-navy template designed to reduce misunderstandings and avoid maritime accidents.

Pakistan's Chief of Naval Staff Mohammad Asif Sandila hailed China's contribution to the approval of the CUES, which was announced for the first time in 2000.

During closing remarks for the two-day event on Wednesday, Ding Yiping, deputy commander of the Chinese navy, called for the signatory countries to effectively implement the non-binding document.

He also called for navies to consolidate the foundation of cooperation and enhance the exchanges "from sailors to admirals".

The chief of staff of the Indonesian navy, Adm. Marsetio, said maritime challenges require a common solution, citing safety of navigation, marine environment, transnational organized crime, natural disasters and illegal migrants.

"Cooperation is key to answering our current and future challenges, and cooperation will not decrease nor diminish sovereignty," he said.

Martin Holzberger, warrant officer of the Australian navy, said there was a strong willingness for cooperation during the symposium.

"There is not a lot of tension now. Most navies (get along) pretty well together. This will make it easier, increase the level of safety when they come across each other during operations," he said.

Wen Bin, a researcher at the Academy of Military Sciences of the People's Liberation Army, said the symposium helped other navies to better understand China's stance.


(China Daily 04/24/2014 page11)