China leads the way on multilateral military co-op

Updated: 2013-08-29 02:07

By Pu Zhendong (China Daily)

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Beijing's increasing involvement in multilateral defense mechanisms is producing a new security concept for the Asia-Pacific, observers said on Wednesday, as Defense Minister Chang Wanquan attended the second ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting-Plus.

"Despite the Asia-Pacific being the most economically dynamic region in the world, its security structure is still dominated by the Cold War mentality," said Zhao Xiaozhuo, deputy director of the center on China-US defense relations at the PLA's Academy of Military Science.

"The mechanism will help regional countries to phase out old-fashioned bilateral military alliances, which usually target a third party, and set up a comprehensive, cooperative and common security structure," he added.

Chang, who just concluded a seven-day visit to the United States and Canada last week, is in Brunei for the meeting on Thursday.

He held talks with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday, their second meeting this month.

Chang is also expected to meet with his counterparts from participating countries, including the Republic of Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India.

Su Hao, a professor of Asia-Pacific studies at China Foreign Affairs University, said that China, as a large and influential country, has always supported ASEAN's role in leading regional cooperation frameworks, including the defense ministers' meeting, and has been actively seeking areas of common interest through dialogue.

"China's suggestions on maritime rescue, and security and peacekeeping issues for this year's conference have gained wide recognition," Su said. "In this way, China is playing an active and constructive role in a multilateral mechanism."

The defense ministers' meeting is by far the most inclusive and highest-profile regional defense and security mechanism. China has been participating in ASEAN's cooperation programs since 2010, in areas of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, peacekeeping operations, counterterrorism, offshore safety and military medicine.

Meanwhile, the China-ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting is convening in Beijing on Thursday, in celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the China-ASEAN strategic partnership.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi will discuss with ASEAN counterparts ways to deepen cooperation.

Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said the foreign ministers' meeting displays China's initiative in developing ties with ASEAN countries, and should also be viewed as an important opportunity for them to outline future cooperation.

Su said meetings under the China-ASEAN framework contribute to promoting peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

"Even though some countries seek to use these platforms to contain China, Beijing still voices its own defense message to strengthen trust and dispel suspicion," he said.

"They believe China is too conservative in multilateral diplomacy because of some sensitive issues, but the fact is China is actively seeking security cooperation within various mechanisms while shelving current disputes," Su said.

Mo Jingxi contributed to this story.