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Cold water can't dampen significance of discussions among estranged parties: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-04-23 19:59

Zhang Youxia (front row, third from left), vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, poses for a group photo on Monday with the attendees of the 19th Western Pacific Naval Symposium in Qingdao, Shandong province. NG HAN GUAN/AP

The way in which some Western media outlets have reported on the 19th Western Pacific Naval Symposium hosted by China in Qingdao, Shandong province, from Sunday to Wednesday only exposes that they have missed the point.

They have tried to portray the gathering of high-level delegations from 29 countries as being merely an occasion for Beijing to attempt to defend itself against the allegations of the West, which accuses it of making "dangerous, irresponsible, bullying, provocative and coercive" moves targeting its smaller neighbors in the South and East China seas.

These reports originate from the media outlets' biased view that Beijing is the root cause of the security threats in the region. They are not only a deliberate distortion of the truth; more importantly, they fail to convey the practical significance of the forum.

China has nothing to feel sorry about when it comes to defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity and core interests in the Asia-Pacific, and it has no need to defend its actions to that effect.

The real value of the symposium is that it provides a rare platform for major countries related to not only the security of the Asia-Pacific, but also the rest of the world, to have face-to-face communications on core issues of global concern.

Notably, many senior representatives of the maritime defense departments of different countries are attending the symposium at the invitation of China, including US Navy Pacific Fleet Commander Stephen Koehler and Acting Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy Aleksandr Alekseyevich Moiseyev. Australia, France, India and the United Kingdom have also sent delegations to the forum.

That means representatives of not only the US-led "Indo-Pacific" geopolitical cliques such as the Quad and AUKUS, but also some North Atlantic Treaty Organization member states are participating in the meeting.

The regional maritime security forum should therefore be welcomed given the long-time lack of security communications, if not estrangement, among some of the countries attending the gathering, against the backdrop of the US' "Indo-Pacific" strategy, the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the Middle East crisis.

According to the forum agenda, delegates to the meeting are expected to review activities taking place under the symposium's framework since its 18th biennial meeting, set the future agenda, and discuss and vote on issues such as the Western Pacific Naval Symposium Business Charter, the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, and unmanned systems. All of these contribute to laying a strong foundation for the formation of an effective institutional mechanism to safeguard regional peace, avoid any misjudgment and manage risks.

As US Pacific Fleet Commander Stephen Koehler told the media, the symposium is a rare opportunity for countries with apparently "opposing regional interests" to exchange views.

Although details of most of these exchanges between the key stakeholders remain unknown, their presence at the forum, and the forum's agenda, which reportedly has been widely welcomed by the majority of the participants, should serve to prove that the participating countries are open to talks and face-to-face communications on key issues of common concern.

Instead of misportraying the Qingdao naval symposium, the Western media has enough reasons to report on it accurately. In a volatile world that has not seen such a meaningful and pragmatic solution-oriented multilateral gathering at the executive level for so long, the collective willingness displayed by the participating countries to exchange views and seek common ground to ease regional tensions and explore ways to resolve some hotspot issues is a positive and welcome sign.

China deserves credit for inviting, hosting and encouraging these otherwise not-talking-with-each-other guests to engage in constructive discussions about meaningful topics, avoiding the event from becoming another bickering shop between different blocs.

That is why the symposium is being keenly followed by countries far beyond the Asia-Pacific, despite the efforts of some Western media to belittle it.

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