China calls for resolution of disputes; PH says talk is cheap


Posted at Jun 03 2013 12:17 AM | Updated as of Jun 03 2013 09:17 AM

SINGAPORE - A senior Chinese military official, attending a defense summit in Singapore on Sunday (June 2), called for the resolution of conflicts and disputes in the Asia region to maintain peace.

"For this end, we should discard the Cold War mentality, go beyond the outdated zero sum games, and refrain from building military alliances set against imaginary enemies and taking actions against a third party," Lieutenant General Qi Jianguo, Deputy Chief of General Staff, People's Liberation Army, said.

His comments came after U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's speech on Saturday (June 1) pledged to maintain a U.S. strategic pivot to Asia. Political watchers say China believes the U.S. is attempting to encircle it militarily.

Qi also said China and the Philippines were in talks over their territorial dispute in the South China Sea. The Philippines had previously asked the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, an international tribunal, to intervene in its longstanding dispute with China to declare Beijing's claims to invalid.

Qi on Sunday was keen to promote bilateral talks instead of seeking third-party help.

"In the meantime, the channel for our dialogue between China and the Philippines has always been open and smooth, so we don't see any necessity to resort to the international tribunal. We can totally solve the issue through open-minded channels, only in this way can we seek to resolve our disputes through friendship and partnership," he said.

Philippines' Secretary of Defense Voltaire Gazmin said he hoped China's pledge to resolve the issue would amount to more than mere words.

"Well, they talk about so many good things right now, peaceful means and all the good things. We do hope that this speech, these words, are translated into action in what is happening in the South China Sea," he said.

China's claims over islands, reefs and atolls in resource-rich waters off its south coast and to the east of mainland Southeast Asia set it directly against U.S. allies Vietnam and the Philippines, while Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also lay claim to parts.

It is also in dispute with Japan over territory in the East China Sea.

Japan has lodged a diplomatic protest against a Chinese state media commentary calling into question Japanese sovereignty over the southern Ryukyu Islands, which include Okinawa.

The People's Daily, the Chinese Communist Party's mouthpiece, published a commentary by two Chinese government-backed scholars who said ownership of the Ryukyu islands should be re-examined, prompting Japan to lodge the diplomatic protest.

Qi said that the Chinese government did not hold such views regarding the Ryukyu islands, but stated that China still believed in its sovereignty over other disputed maritime territory.

"It doesn't represent the views of the Chinese government. However, here, I have to say, Diaoyu Islands, the Ryukyu Islands, and the Okinawa Islands, the first, second and third are not of the same nature. The Chinese government's stance on this is very clear," he said.

On North Korea, Qi said China did not have a contingency plan for the developments on the tense Korean peninsula at the moment, and called for diplomatic talks to resume with North Korea.

"I think we're overestimating the seriousness of the situation there. As far as we know, the Chinese government, at this moment, it is stable. We don't see any signs of the breaking down of the situation in the country. We're already seeing a relaxation window in the situation on the Korean peninsula, so I think all parties should grasp at this opportunity to do more work to relax tensions, to relax the situation," he said.

Tension on the Korean peninsula has subsided in the past month. Tensions were raised after the UN Security Council imposed tougher sanctions against Pyongyang following its third nuclear test in February.

Qi is among representatives from 30 countries, including France, the United Kingdom and the United States, who are meeting in Singapore to discuss defence and security issues.