China's military good for world peace, top general claims

Takuya Karube, Kyodo News

Posted at Oct 19 2015 01:58 AM

BEIJING - A top Chinese general said Saturday that the country's growing military power will allow it to assume more international obligations and be beneficial for world peace, amid rising tensions in the South China Sea.

"The growth of the Chinese military contributes to the expansion of the world's force of peace," Fan Changlong, a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, told a security forum in Beijing, whose participants included Southeast Asian defense ministers.

The top officer of the commission that controls the People's Liberation Army headed by Chinese President Xi Jinping noted that the armed forces' acceleration of its modernization drive and reforms is in line with a larger role played by them in global peacekeeping operations.

"China will neither adopt a warlike policy nor bully the weak. History has proved and will continue to prove that," Fan said.

His remarks came as tensions over China's building of islands in the disputed waters once again heightened in recent weeks, especially with the United States.

READ: Beijing tries to soothe South China Sea jitters

In response to China's continued assertiveness in the South China Sea, one of the busiest and most vital shipping lanes in the world, the United States is reportedly weighing sending military ships and aircraft within 12 nautical miles of artificial islands that Beijing has created in the Spratly Islands despite opposition from other claimants, including the Philippines and Vietnam.

Fan touched on China's oft-repeated stance on the rapid island construction and tried to dismiss concerns that it could undermine freedom of navigation.

"Those construction projects are mainly carried out for civil purposes" Fan said. "They will enable us to provide better public services to aid navigation and production in the South China Sea."

He also told the Xiangshan Forum that China will "never recklessly resort to the use of force, even on issues bearing upon sovereignty, and have done our utmost to avoid unexpected conflicts."

"We will continue to resolve disputes and differences with directly related parties through friendly consultation," he said.

China claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, as well as a group of small Japan-controlled islands in the East China Sea.

China has insisted that the United States, Japan and other countries that have no claims in the South China Sea not interfere in its territorial disputes.

The three-day security forum through Sunday, attended by government officials and scholars, is being organized by the China Association for Military Science and the China Institute for International Strategic Studies.

The forum became an annual event from last year, with some analysts saying that China is using it to try to ease regional fears over its growing military clout.

China is also hoping to make the forum a counterbalance to Asia's foremost influential security meeting, known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, held every year in Singapore, where Beijing's opaque military expansion often comes under criticism.