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Defense Ministry's regular press conference on Sept. 24

( Source: MOD  )         2015-September-24 21:25

Colonel Wu Qian, spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense (MND) of the People's Republic of China (PRC), answers reporters' questions at a regular press conference on September 24, 2015. ( Aiming

(The following English text of the press conference is for reference. In case of any divergence of interpretations, the Chinese text shall prevail.)

  Colonel Wu Qian:

  Friends from the press, Good afternoon! Welcome to the regular press conference of the Ministry of National Defense (MND).

  First of all, I would like to introduce myself. I am Colonel Wu Qian, new Deputy Director General of the MND Information Office and spokesperson of the MND.

  It is a trend of our times that the PLA is further opening itself to the world. Together with my colleagues, Senior Colonel Yang Yujun, and all the members of the MND spokespersons' team, I will try my best to give you a better introduction about the Chinese military.

  Before we start, I'd like to introduce some special guests. They are friends from the spokespersons training class of the Macao SAR. Welcome!

  First of all, I would like to make two announcements and then take your questions.

  The first is about the China-ASEAN Defense Ministers Informal Meeting. To promote strategic trust and pragmatic cooperation between China and ASEAN countries in the defense and security fields, the Ministry of National Defense of China will hold an informal meeting of the defense ministers of China and ASEAN (10+1) countries from October 15 to 16 in Beijing. We will invite the leaders of the defense ministries of the ASEAN countries as well as the ASEAN secretaries to participate in the meeting.

  The theme of this meeting is “Building towards China-ASEAN Community of Shared Destiny, Strengthening Defense Security Cooperation”. General Chang Wanquan, State Councilor and Minister of National Defense of China, will have an in-depth exchange of views with the leaders of the ministries of defense of the ASEAN countries. China will also invite participating representatives to visit relevant military units.

  The second announcement is about the 6th Xiangshan Forum. At the regular press conference in June this year, the spokesperson disclosed that the 6th Xiangshan Forum would be held in Beijing in mid-October. The theme of the forum is “Security Cooperation in Asia-Pacific Region: Reality and Prospect”. Here I’d like to add some details.

  The main agenda points of the 6th Xiangshan Forum include the Asia-Pacific Security Trend: Opportunities and Challenges, Asia-Pacific Security Concepts: Innovation and Practice, Asia-Pacific Maritime Security: Risks and Management, Regional Terrorism: Roots and Counter-Measures.

  The agenda points of the concurrent panels include Asia-Pacific Security and Responsibilities of Major Countries, ASEAN Community Building, Regional Counter-Terrorism Cooperation, Security of Sea Lanes of Communication, Code of Conduct in Cyberspace, Humanitarian Assistance Cooperation, Asia-Pacific Security Cooperation: Roles of Think Tanks.

  Up to now, more than 40 countries and international organizations have confirmed that they would send official delegations to participate in the Forum. In addition, More than 130 former foreign political and military leaders, as well as famous experts and scholars, will also participate in the Forum.

  Now the floor is open for questions.

  Q: It is reported that diplomatic sources from the U.S. and China said that during President Xi Jinping's visit to the U.S., the two state leaders are expected to reach an agreement on rules of behavior to avoid air conflict between the two sides. It is also reported that there are hardliners inside the U.S. who are vigilant against promoting the cooperation between China and the U.S. in the military fields, so the two sides are cautiously coordinating how to publicize the achievements? Would you please comment on that?

  A: According to the consensus reached by President Xi and President Obama in June 2013 on the establishment of Notification of Major Military Activities mechanism between the two militaries and also the Rules of Behavior for the Safety of Air and Maritime Encounters, the Ministry of National Defense of China and the Department of Defense of the U.S. have conducted close and effective coordination and cooperation on the establishment of the above-mentioned confidence-building mechanisms.

  On September 18, the two sides completed the official signing of the two annexes to the Notification of Major Military Activities mechanism, which includes the Annex of Notification on Military Crisis and the Annex of the Rules of Behavior for Air-to-Air Encounters. The signing of these two annexes marks new progress in the establishment of the two confidence-building mechanisms.

  This is also a practical measure to implement the strategic decisions of the state leaders of China and the U.S., which is of positive significance to enhancing strategic mutual trust, and avoiding misunderstanding and miscalculation as well as maritime and air incidents. And it is a contribution to the building of the new-type major country relationship and a new-type mil-to-mil relationship.

  Q: Just now you mentioned about two new annexes signed between China and the U.S. One is about the notification of military crisis; the other is about the rules of behavior on air encounters. Could you tell us the main contents of the two annexes and what kind of role the two annexes will play?

  A: The purpose of the annex about the notification of military crisis is to use Defence Telephone Link between the Ministry of National Defense of China and the Department of Defense of the U.S. to improve and normalize mutual notification military crisis information so as to reduce risk and foster mutual trust. The main contents of the annex include the purpose, scope, goals, procedures, organization and implementation of the notification mechanism on military crisis.

  The annex regarding air-to-air encounters is a component of the Rules of Behavior for the Safety of Air and Maritime Encounters between two sides. It mainly specifies the rules of behavior by the pilots of the two sides to maintain flight safety while the military aircraft of the two sides have air-to-air encounters and basic principles for communications, rules for specially designated areas such as air danger area or warning area, peacetime security assurance measures, rules for emergency on-scene coordination. The purpose of the annexes is to ensure flight safety, avoid any maritime and air incidents and enhance mutual trust.

  Q: Recently, the Chinese and Malaysian Armed Forces conducted an actual troop joint exercise for the first time. The Chief of the Malaysian Armed Forces said during an interview that he expected the two armed forces to conduct such joint exercises every year or every other year. What’s your comment on that?

  A: In recent years, the relations between the defense ministries and the armed forces of China and Malaysia have maintained a good momentum of development. China attaches importance to developing friendly and cooperative relations with Malaysia, and is willing to strengthen pragmatic exchanges and cooperation with the Malaysian military in the fields of joint exercises and trainings. And arrangement will be made by the defense ministries of China and Malaysia according to the needs of both sides.

  Q: In June last year, the United States claimed that one J-11 aircraft of the PLA got unusually close to the U.S. military aircraft. Before that, one Chinese aircraft also got unusually close to an aircraft of the Japanese Self-Defense Force. At that time, the Japanese side lodged protest through diplomatic channel. My question is why dangerous maneuvers like those occurred frequently?

  A: On June 11 last year, one Tu-154 aircraft of the PLA conducted normal flight near the shore of China and it was followed closely by two F-15 aircraft from the Japanese Self-Defense Force which seriously endangered the flight safety of the Chinese aircraft.

  After that, the Chinese side lodged representations to the Japanese side and also publicized video and photo evidence. If you are interested, you can go to the website of China’s Ministry of National Defense to check the details.

  Q: The society is paying great attention to the military's employment of civilian employees. My question is when the employment of civilian employees will start this year? Will there be any policy adjustment?

  A: Since 2014,the military has adopted unified recruitment of the civilian people into the military and this reform provoked strong reactions from the society. Through the strict examinations and fair selection process, a large group of intellectural, technological and management elite from the civilian sector have entered the military, which has opened a new road for the military to select talents to serve the military.

  From our experience in the past two years, such recruitment has achieved good results. Among the employees into the main specialties including education, scientific research, engineering and medical service, about 72 percent hold master's degrees and about 47 percent are graduates from such key universities as Qinghua University and Peiking University, as well as other universities under the 985 Project and the 211 Project.

  According to the information from the Personnel Department of the General Political Department, next year's employment work of the civilian employees into the military will make a full start very soon. And in early October, the information of jobs will be publicized and from mid and late October applications can be submitted through the Internet. In late November, there will be a unified examination.

  Compared with the previous years, this year's employment work has adjustments in policy in the following aspects: The first is to expand the job vacancies for medium and high level positions, which will provide more opportunities for high-calibre and mature talents into the military. And the second is to make sure the majors of the employees better match the job requirements, and select proper and talented people to work in the military in a larger scope. Thirdly, for the first time, we have some favorable policies for the spouses and children of the martyrs and those who sacrificed while performing official duties, as well as spouses of the military personnel in active service. It is to give more care and support for the families of the martyrs and servicemen.

  Q: Reports from India a few weeks ago said that the Indian troops had removed a hut built by the Chinese troops in the Ladakh area along the India-China border. What's the comment of the Chinese side on the incident? What exactly happened there? The Indian media reported that there was supposed to be a sector commanders' meeting to sought out the differences. Has such a meeting taken place? What exactly is the latest situation?

  A: Jointly maintaining peace and tranquility in the China-India border areas is an important consensus reached between the leaders of the two countries and also a solemn promise made by the governments and militaries of the two countries. Recent actions by the Indian military in relevant areas were not consistent with the spirit of relevant agreements and consensus between the two sides.

  We ask the Indian military to earnestly implement the important consensus between the two governments, refrain from taking any unilateral action which may affect the situation in the border areas, and work together with the Chinese military to maintain peace and stability in the China-India border areas.

  Q: Recently, the Times of India reported that China and India's militaries will hold a joint training exercise in October. Could you please confirm it and give us some details?

  A: According to the annual exchange program between the Chinese and Indian Armed Forces, the two armies will hold a joint counter-terrorism training exercise code-named "Hand-in-Hand 2015" from October 11 to 23 in Kunming, Yunnan Province. The Chinese side will send 144 personnel from the No.14 Group Army of the Chengdu Military Area Command to participate in the joint training exercise. And the Indian side will send a contingent of similar size to participate. This is the fifth counter-terrorism joint training exercise conducted between the two armies.

  Q: President Xi is now visiting the United State. How do you look at the China-U.S. military-to-military relations which feature both engagement and repeated friction? Secondly, could you please tell us whether there will be any military cooperation agreement reached during the visit of President Xi? For example, whether China will participate in next year's RIMPAC Exercise?

  A: In recent years, with the personal care and promotion of both President Xi and President Obama, the China-U.S. military-to-military relations havehad generally stable development.

  Since the beginning of this year, the two militaries have conducted frequent high-level visits and maintained close communication on important, strategic and directional issues. There has been growth in both width and depths of exchanges and cooperation between the two militaries, and there have been a lot of important achievements including several “first times”.

  For example, Gen. Fang Fenghui, Chief of General Staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), conducted the first video communication with Gen. Dempsey, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States; the Ministry of National Defense (MND) of China conducted the first Asia-Pacific security dialogue with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), and for the first time, the U.S. Army sent a complete unit to China to participate in a joint humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) exercise.

  Following the strategic objective of No Conflict and No Confrontation, the two militaries have made new positive steps in enhancing mutual trust and managing risks.

  We hope that both sides can take the opportunity of President Xi’s visit to the U.S. and promote healthy and steady development of the new type of mil-to-mil relations between China and the United States.

  With regard to the specific cooperation programs, just now I already mentioned about the progress made in the two confidence-building mechanisms. As to the RIMPAC Exercise, so far, I do not have any information to announce.

  Q: Some satellite images that were released last week show that China is constructing an airstrip on the Meiji Reef of the Nansha Islands. Can you explain to us why China wants to build the third airstrip on the Nansha Islands?

  A: China has sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and the adjacent waters, which has solid historical and legal evidence. China has conducted relevant construction and maintenance on the facilities of some stationed islands and reefs of the Nansha Islands. The functions of the facilities on the islands and reefs are diversified and comprehensive. Besides meeting necessary military defense needs, they, to a larger extent, are to serve various civilian needs and common interests of various countries. This will also help China to fulfil its international responsibilities and obligations. The construction work China has conducted on the Nansha Islands will not affect and is not against any other country. It is conducive to the international community.

  Q: During the parade on September 3, President Xi announced that China would cut the number of its troops by 300,000. Will the details be available to the society and what is the timetable for that? My second question is again about the parade. Recently, Gen. Fang Fenghui, Chief of the General Staff of the PLA, said that the PLA needs further study on holding regular parades. There is also voice that China will have more parades in 2017, 2019, and 2021. What is your comment?

  A: On September 3, President Xi announced that China would cut the numbers of its troops by 300,000 and the downsizing of the PLA is an important part of China’s national defense and military reform. The downsizing will be implemented step by step. It will be completed by the end of 2017. At the moment, I do not have any further details regarding the national defense and military reform.

  Military parade is an important part of state ceremonial system. In recent years, China has organized several military parades, which aroused major repercussions both at home and abroad.

  In the future, the PLA will draw experience from the previous military parades and carry out further study on the organization and implementation of military parades on a regular basis.

  Q: Since the announcement of the downsizing of the PLA, there have been several versions of plans circulating on the Internet. The news on the Internet may have affected the moral of the troops because there is no official clarification on this issue. What is your comment? In addition, since the downsizing of the military concerns the interests of 300,000 individuals, will there be any measures to guarantee the process to be open, fair and transparent?

  A: To cut the number of the PLA by 300,000 is a strategic decision made by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, the Central Military Commission and President Xi. It is consistent with the national conditions of China and the conditions of the PLA. All the officers and men of the PLA resolutely support this decision and the national defense and military reform by conscientiously performing their duties and missions.

  Since 1980s, China has cut down the size of its troops for three times, which conformed with the requirement of the times and advanced national defense and military modernization , winning support from the PLA troops. The downsizing of the troops this time a decision based on the strategic plan set by the 3rd Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee on deepening national defense and military reform. The decision was made after in-depth research and scientific evaluation. More follow-up reform measures will be unveiled to actively and prudently push forward the national defense and military reform.

  Q: About the downsizing of the PLA troops by 300, 000, will China postpone it? And is there any voice of objection inside the PLA? My second question is that five Chinese naval ships sailed into the Bering Sea in September and entered the Aleutian Islands from September 3 to 4 without advance notification to the U.S. side. What is the purpose of the Chinese naval ships’ entering the territorial sea of the U. S.?

  A: I answered your first question just now. And now I would like to answer your second question.

  According to the annual plan, the PLA naval ships continued to organize the training on the far seas after concluding the "Joint Sea - 2015 (II)" exercise with the Russian side. Early Septermber, the ships sailed in the Bering Sea and entered western Pacific through the Tanaga Strait.

  It needs to be pointed out that, according to relevant international laws, the Tanaga Strait is a strait for international navigation. The military ships and aircraft of all countries enjoy the rights of transit passage.

  Q: You just introduced the China-ASEAN Defense Ministers Informal Meeting and the Xiangshan Forum, but you didn't mention the specific time of the Xiangshan Forum. Will there be any ASEAN defense ministers to participate in the Xiangshan Forum since both of the two events will be held in mid-October?

  My second question is, recently, the National Security Advisor of the U.S. Susan Rice openly said that China has provoked territorial disputes in the South China Sea. She also explicitly said that the U.S. side would conduct navigation and flight activities and have operations as allowed by the international laws.

  As a matter of fact, the U.S. military has for long time been trying to send ships and aircraft to conduct patrol in the waters within the 12 nautical miles of China's Nansha Islands, so what's your comment on that? If the U.S. government gives approval to sending military ships and aircraft into the 12 nautical miles area of the Nansha Islands, is it consistent with the international laws or not?

  A: As I just mentioned, at the regular press conference in June this year, the spokesperson of the MND has already publicized the information regarding the 6th Xiangshan Forum, and I advise you to check the website of the MND for relevant information.

  About your second question, the Nansha Islands have been the territory of China since ancient times. It has solid historical and legal evidences. China always upholds peace and stability in the South China Sea. The Chinese military firmly safeguards China's sovereignty, territorial integrity as well as maritime rights and interests; while committing itself to maintaining security and stability in the surrounding areas.

  We urge the relevant parties to be prudent in their words and actions, and do more things that are conducive to peace and stability in the South China Sea region.

  Q: You said that the India military should comply with the spirit of the agreements and consensus reached between the two sides. Is there any sectoral commanders’ meeting planned to resolve the differences? Or has any meeting been held? There was a meeting plan, but I’m not sure whether any meeting has taken place to resolve this problem.

  A: The China-India border areas have generally maintained peace and stability. The two sides have maintained effective communication through diplomatic channels and through the border meeting mechanisms.

  We will conclude today's press conference. The Mid-autumn Day and the National Day are just around the corner. On behalf of my colleagues in the Information Office, I'd like to wish all of you a happy holiday and a happy family!

Editor :  Yao Jianing