China / Government

China pledges to protect maritime sovereignty

By Zhao Shengnan and Zhang Yunbi (China Daily) Updated: 2012-06-29 03:00

Military body may be set up in South China Sea city, ministry says

A military presence may be set up in Sansha, a newly established city that administers Chinese territory in the South China Sea, the Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng told a news conference that setting up a military body in the city is being studied by the military.

The move is a strong indication of China's determination to protect its maritime sovereignty in response to provocation from neighboring countries, analysts said.

The State Council on June 21 approved the establishment of the prefecture-level city of Sansha to administer the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands and their surrounding waters in the South China Sea.

The government abolished a county-level administration office for the islands that was previously stationed on Yongxing Island, part of the Xisha Islands.

On the same day, June 21, Vietnam passed a law claiming sovereignty and jurisdiction over Xisha and Nansha islands. The islands are within Chinese territorial waters.

Asked to comment on Vietnamese overflights in the skies above Sansha recently, Geng said on Thursday that Beijing will "resolutely oppose any military provocation".

"The Chinese military has already set up a normal, combat-ready patrol system in seas under our control to protect national sovereignty and our security and development interests," he said.

Having established a regular patrol system in its territorial waters, China's armed forces have the resolution and will to safeguard China's territorial sovereignty, sea rights and interests, Geng said. "We will resolutely fulfill our duties in accordance with the State's arrangements."

Sansha may be targeted by some countries that claim sovereignty over the South China Sea, said Zhang Haiwen, deputy director at the China Institute for Marine Affairs.

The military's presence is needed to safeguard interests including fishing rights, scientific research and the development of maritime resources.

After Sansha city is established, Zhang said, its government will launch a series of development plans. Implementation of the plans, he added, will need the protection of the military.

Geng said China is keen to solve disputes through peaceful means and promote military exchanges with major players in the Asia-Pacific region, including the United States and Japan.

A maritime defense consultation between China and Japan was held in Beijing on Thursday. A mechanism to enhance maritime trust was discussed, Geng said.

Concerning recent exercises between the US and its Asian allies, Geng said that the cause of regional peace and stability was not served well when countries intentionally strengthened military alliances by holding exercises.

Shortly after concluding a drill with Japan and the Republic of Korea on the Yellow Sea, the US joined the largest-ever Rim of the Pacific naval exercises in Hawaii, involving most Asia-Pacific countries.

Geng said these actions were at odds with the issues of the times, namely peace, development and cooperation on the Korean Peninsula.

In response to the ongoing US-led exercise in Hawaii, Geng said it is nothing to be surprised about, but expressed hopes that the parties involved will do more to maintain peace and stability in the area.

Zhang Junshe, deputy director of the Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said those drills, led by Washington, reflect its "Cold War mentality".

The US is beefing up its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced earlier this month that Washington is seeking to increase the US military presence by shifting 60 percent of its ships to the region by 2020, despite cutbacks in defense spending.

The move is not good for regional security and damages trust, Geng said.

Deliberately highlighting the military and security agenda and deploying more military forces in the Asia-Pacific "go against the global pursuit of peace, development and cooperation, as well as trust among nations in the region", he said.

"China has always attached great importance to developing military relations with the US, and is willing to push forward the stable development of military ties on the basis of mutual respect, mutual trust, equality and reciprocity," Geng said.

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Xinhua contributed to this story.


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