World / Asia-Pacific

Navy chiefs set for fresh talks on South China Sea

By Zhang Yunbi (China Daily) Updated: 2016-07-18 01:34

Naval chiefs from China and the United States are set to hold their first face-to-face meeting since the July 12 ruling on the arbitration case brought by the Philippines, which has intensified tensions in the South China Sea.

US Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson was to start his first visit to China from Sunday to Wednesday, during which he will meet with Admiral Wu Shengli, commander of the Chinese navy, according to a US Navy news release on July 14.

Washington has been pressing Beijing to accept the arbitration ruling by The Hague that challenges China's sovereignty in the South China Sea. Meanwhile, the Chinese navy has conducted drills near Xisha Islands in the sea this month.

The goal of Richardson's trip is to "improve mutual understanding and encourage professional interaction", the release said. It added that the South China Sea dispute, the ongoing Rim of the Pacific exercise and navy-to-navy collaboration will be high on the agenda.

After meetings in Beijing, Richardson will also visit Qingdao, Shandong province, to see the navy's submarine academy and tour China's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.

The Chinese government did not provide further details about the trip on Sunday.

Zhang Junshe, a senior researcher at the People's Liberation Army Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said cooperation between the two navies is expanding in areas such as joint drills and officer exchanges.

However, the US has attempted to pressure China to accept The Hague ruling, which will never succeed, he added.

In the past year, Richardson and Wu have had three discussions via video teleconference. Their latest conversation, in January, touched on China's new airport on Yongshu Reef in the Nansha Islands, which was put into use that month.

Wu said China "will not seek militarization" in the sea, but it also will not allow the absence of its regular national defense either.

On July 8, senior Chinese naval officers including Wu attended a drill in waters near Xisha Islands, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Meanwhile, two supply ships serving long-range missions — the Honghu and Luomahu — officially joined the service in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province, on Friday, according to the PLA's Southern Theater Command, which covers the South China Sea.

Zhao Xiaozhuo, a researcher at the Center on China-US Defense Relations at the PLA Academy of Military Science, said if the US further approaches China's territorial waters, such action would have "huge negative effects" and would be "unreasonable".

Yuan Peng, vice-president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, warned that China-US ties are "now dominated and encumbered by a single problem — the South China Sea issue".

"Barack Obama should bring the ties back on track before leaving office," Yuan added.

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