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China standing firm on territorial spats
Publication Date : 09-03-2014
China will not cede any ground to "unreasonable" territorial demands by neighbouring countries, its top diplomat stressed yesterday even as he promised that Beijing would "never bully smaller countries".
Speaking at a press conference on the sidelines of China's annual legislative session, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also struck a tough note on relations with Japan.
He said there was "no room for compromise" with Japan over Tokyo's wartime aggression, or on the territorial spat in the East China Sea.
Ties between Beijing and Tokyo are at a new low due to territorial disputes in the East China Sea and Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe's recent visit to the controversial Yasukuni war shrine.
China is also locked in simmering territorial disputes in the South China Sea with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
"We will not take anything that is not ours, but we will defend every inch of territory that belongs to us," said Wang, adding that China would like to use peaceful means to handle its disputes, based on historical facts and the international law.
But he made it clear that Beijing will not be receptive to what it deems as "unreasonable" claims by Japan over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, and by various countries including Vietnam and the Philippines over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
Wang said: "We are willing to listen to the voices from our neighbouring countries and respond to the doubts about China's neighbourhood diplomacy policy.
"We will never bully smaller countries, yet we will not accept unreasonable demands from smaller countries."
Striving to balance his tough rhetoric on territorial issues, the diplomat maintained that Beijing will seek to deepen its ties in the region, and allow neighbouring countries to benefit from its growth.
China, the world's No.2 economy, is the top trading partner for more than 120 countries, including many in South-east Asia. But its growing military might has also raised concerns.
Premier Li Keqiang announced last Wednesday that Beijing would boost military spending by 12.2 per cent this year to 808 billion yuan (US$131 billion), the fastest increase in the mainland's defence budget since 2011.
Some Japanese politicians and media have criticised the growing Chinese military budget, labelling it a threat to regional peace.
Beijing has hit back by accusing Tokyo of lurching towards militarism with its recent policy moves, including proposals to remove restraints on its pacifist post-war Constitution.
"If some people in Japan insist on overturning the verdict on its past aggression I don't believe the international community and all peace-loving people in the world will ever tolerate or condone that," said Wang, who served as ambassador to Japan from 2004 to 2007.
Turning to relations with the United States, which have been strained of late as well, Wang noted that "the Asia-Pacific region should be the testing ground of our commitment to build a new model of relations, rather than a competitive arena".
China is willing to work with the superpower to uphold peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, he added.
This includes the early resumption of six-party talks to stem nuclear proliferation on the Korean peninsula, where Beijing will not allow war or instability to break out, said Wang.