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China neither pushy nor a threat, say defence officials

Publication Date : 01-08-2012


The Chinese military is no threat and its weapons are a generation behind those of advanced armies, say Chinese defence officials, even as troubles swirl in its surrounding waters.

"China's development of its military is to protect its safety, sovereignty and interests and isn't aimed at any country," Senior Colonel Wu Xihua said.

And China has not become more pushy, the officials stressed at a press conference yesterday to mark the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) 85th anniversary today.

The event coincided with the release of Japan's annual defence white paper, which noted that relations between the communist leadership and the military "have been getting more complex".

"The degree of military influence on foreign policy decisions has been changing," it said.

It again described China's response to maritime disputes with its neighbours as "assertive".

Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said yesterday that regular combat- ready patrols in waters under China's jurisdiction are aimed at defending its sovereignty and maritime rights. "There is no basis for equating China's legitimate move to protect its national interests with outward assertion," he said, dismissing talk that Beijing is no longer lying low as the late leader Deng Xiaoping had ordered.

While Beijing has not veered from Deng's policy, it has grown "more active and determined in safeguarding its own interests", analyst Li Mingjiang noted.

Indeed, China's latest avowal of peaceful aims comes even as it asserts ownership of the disputed Paracel and Spratly isles in the South China Sea by having regular patrols and setting up a higher-level city in Sansha in the area.

Its moves have already drawn protests from rival claimants Vietnam and the Philippines.

But Col Geng insisted that "China's setting-up of relevant institutions on its own turf is its domestic affair and has nothing to do with other countries".

Beijing has "indisputable sovereignty" over isles and waters in the South China Sea and opposes any provocative military action in the area, he added.

China also faces competing claims in waters to its east.

Tensions over the Diaoyu islands rose after the Tokyo city government ran an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal to gain support for its claim on the isles it calls Senkaku. Tokyo's governor also spoke of a bid to buy them.

China called these remarks "irresponsible" yesterday while the official China Daily newspaper argued in an editorial that Japan's claims "do not hold water".

China also played down the prowess of its arsenal.

"We won't take part in an arms race, become a military threat or develop weapons beyond our economic means," said Senior Colonel Lin Bai, of the PLA armament department.

Certainly, Beijing's escalating military budgets have worried the likes of Tokyo, which referred to its apparent military build-up in its white paper yesterday.

But Col Lin said there are no grounds for the concerns. China has better weapons now, but they still lag behind those of advanced armies by a generation or more.

That may be true, said Dr Li of Nanyang Technological University. China is believed to be 15 to 20 years behind the United States.

But he noted that China has had breakthroughs in areas like missiles, anti-satellite and submarines. This enhances its ability to implement an anti-access or area- denial strategy, which is of concern to the US and its allies.

China's latest bid to ease concerns "will have almost no impact in changing the outside perception of China", he added.


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