Freedom of navigation a 'nonissue'
Updated: 2015-11-05 07:49
By Zhang Yunbi(China Daily USA)
Dragon dancers celebrate a visit by the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy Escort Task Force 152, which arrived for a port call in Jacksonville, Florida, on Tuesday. This is the PLA fleet's first visit to the US East Coast. Chen Weihua / China Daily
State Councilor and Minister of National Defense Chang Wanquan has said that the so-called freedom of navigation issue in the South China Sea is "a false proposition", and therefore it cannot be taken as "an excuse for provocations".
Chang made the remarks after a minority of attending countries attending the third ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting-Plus in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Wednesday, hyped the navigation freedom concept.
The regional situation has witnessed rising tension following the Oct 27 illegal entry by a US warship into waters close to a Chinese reef of the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea.
According to Chang, "more than 100,000 vessels sail through the South China Sea every year, and there is no such thing as a country encountering obstacles, troubles or danger".
"Since there is not any issue over navigation freedom in the South China Sea, it should not become a topic for hyping, not to mention an excuse for provocations," Chang said.
The meeting gathered defense leaders from all 10 ASEAN countries and eight dialogue partner countries - Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Russia and the United States. However, it failed to issue a joint statement on Wednesday.
Reuters reported that "the United States and its allies had pressed for a mention of disputes in the South China Sea in the statement".
The Ministry of National Defense's Information Office stated that "stand-alone countries outside the region are completely responsible" for the failure to release the document, without stating the names of the countries or their number.
The regional outsiders "have attempted to force contents - which are not within the scope of the meeting's discussions - into the joint declaration", according to the ministry.
"China has maintained close coordination and communication with the chairing state Malaysia regarding the draft contents of the joint declaration, and has reached consensus with Malaysia and the rest of the ASEAN countries upon the content of the joint declaration," the ministry said.
Zhang Junshe, a senior researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said that Washington has showed hypocrisy on the South China Sea issue.
"The US action aims at encouraging countries such as the Philippines to further challenge China on the South China Sea issue," Zhang said.
Meanwhile, despite the tension, three Chinese naval ships arrived on Tuesday at United States Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Florida, for the first time, kicking off a five-day goodwill visit.
Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai said the visit demonstrates that the PLA Navy is a staunch defender of peace and stability.