Defense Ministry's regular press conference on November 30

Source:China Military Editor:Yao Jianing 2016-12-01

Senior Colonel Yang Yujun, spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense (MND) of the People's Republic of China (PRC), answers reporters' questions at a regular press conference on November 30, 2016. ( Aiming)
(The following English text of the press conference is for reference. In case of any divergence of interpretations, the Chinese text shall prevail.)

Senior Colonel Yang Yujun:Dear friends from the press: Good afternoon! Welcome to this month’s regular press conference of the Ministry of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Also I would like to welcome friends of the observation team from the Communication University of China.

Today I have a piece of announcement to make at the beginning.

According to the bilateral consensus reached by China and Cambodia, the militaries of China and Cambodia will hold the Joint Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Exercise code-named Dragon Gold-2016 in Phnom Penh from December 11th to 26th, 2016.

The Chinese side will send 97 personnel mainly from the Army troops of the PLA Southern Theater Command to participate in the exercise, and the Cambodian side will send 280 personnel to participate in the exercise. The joint exercise will have four phases, namely, seminar and exchange, combined training of troops, command post training and comprehensive drill.

This joint exercise is aimed at strengthening bilateral coordination and cooperation in joint Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations to deepen practical cooperation between the two militaries.

Now the floor is open for questions.

Q: Recently, General Fan Changlong, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission, paid a visit to Djibouti. What are the consensuses reached and achievements made during the visit? What is the progress of the construction of China’s support facility in Djibouti? Will China consider to upgrade it into a military base in the future?

My second question is about the ongoing national defense and military reform. What is the progress of the reform one year after it was launched? Troops are now under the leadership of the service headquarters for management and development, and they are also under the command of different theater commands for combat operations. Are there any difficulties or obstacles in practice and what are the key areas to be reformed next year?

A:From November 23rd to 24th, General Fan Changlong, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission, paid an official good-will visit to Djibouti. He met with state and military leaders of Djibouti. The two sides agreed to strengthen exchanges and cooperation in personal training, naval escort supplies and support for participating UN peacekeeping operations etc., so as to make active efforts to bring China-Djibouti relations up to a new stage.

The support facility that China is now constructing in Djibouti will be mainly used to provide rest and rehabilitation support and supplies for the Chinese military troops taking part in anti-piracy escort missions and humanitarian assistance missions in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia. At present, the project is progressing smoothly.

China’s establishment of overseas support facility is for the purpose of better undertaking its international responsibilities and obligations and better protecting its lawful interests, instead of seeking military expansion. It should be stressed that it is a consistent and clear-cut policy for China to stick to the path of peaceful development, adhere to a national defense policy that is defensive in nature and resolutely safeguard regional and global peace and stability.

The second question is related to the reform of the military. Since the Central Military Commission held the conference on the reform last November, we have been deepening reform on national defense and the military for more than one year. Over the past year, under the decision and leadership of the CPC Central Committee, the Central Military Commission and President Xi Jinping, the reform on PLA’s leadership management and combat command systems has shown increasing effectiveness.

We have subsequently established the PLA army headquarters, the Rocket Force and the Strategic Support Force, reorganized the previous PLA four General Headquarters into 15 CMC functional agencies, regrouped the previous 7 Military Area Commands into 5 Theater Commands, completed the restructuring of the headquarters of the PLA Navy, the Air Force, the Rocket Force and the People’s Armed Police Force and established the CMC Joint Logistics Support Force. A new structure of the CMC taking charge of the overall administration of the armed forces, the Theater Commands focusing on combat and different military services pursuing their own constructions has been formed.

The reform will be carried out step by step as planned. Next, the military will act according to the overall requirement and objectives of the reform and come up with follow-up reform measures to actively and steadily advance the reform on national defense and the military. We will release relevant information in due course.

Q: According to the reports from Japanese media, the Japanese Defense Ministry will soon establish a special committee headed by a vice defense minister to discuss the adoption of the THAAD system from the United States. Japan is expected to complete its missile defense blueprint before the summer of 2017. What is your comment on that and how will China respond to that?

Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) officially signed the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) to share information about DPRK’s nuclear and missile development, which became the first military cooperation agreement between Japan and ROK since WWII. What is your comment on that? What influence will the Japan-ROK alliance exert on regional peace and stability?

A:My colleague from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already answered the first question about Japan’s intention to adopt the THAAD system. It should be stressed that China is always opposed to any country’s act of using the DPRK’s missile issue as an excuse to do things that will harm other countries’ security and regional stability.

Japan and ROK recently signed the GSOMIA. This act has added new factors of instability and insecurity to northeast Asia, is a typical practice of holding on to the Cold War mentality and goes against the trend of the times featuring peace, development and win-win cooperation. The Chinese military expresses its serious concern, and will make all necessary preparations to earnestly perform our duties and missions, resolutely safeguard our national security interests and regional peace and stability.

Q: Recently, armed conflict broke out in northern Myanmar. Could you please tell us what measures has the military taken to safeguard the stability of the border areas and to protect the safety of the lives and properties of the Chinese citizens living in the border areas?

A:The Chinese military expresses its serious concern about the situation and has strongly urged the parties concerned to seriously treat the security concern of the Chinese side, take concrete and effective measures to strengthen management and control of the military operations in the China-Myanmar border region, and prevent such incident from happening again.

The Chinese military has taken measures to strengthen border patrol, control and security protection, get ready for dealing with various emergencies, and will resolutely safeguard state sovereignty, security and also safety of the lives and properties of the Chinese people in the border region.

At the same time, the PLA has been actively cooperating with relevant departments of the local government to properly shelter the Myanmar citizens who have fled to China to escape the warfare, and maintain the order of productive activities and life in the border region.

Q: Last week, the Hong Kong Customs seized 9 armored personnel carriers (APCs) being sent back from Taiwan to Singapore after they participated military drills in Taiwan. Taiwan and Singapore have a long military relationship. Has the Chinese military spoken to the Singaporean military about this and offered Singapore military training facilities in the mainland of China so that Singapore no longer has to train its forces in Taiwan?

A:My colleagues from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council have already answered this question. Here, I’d like to stress that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. We firmly oppose to any country’s official and military contacts in any form with Taiwan.

Q: Recently, military troops from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states were conducting joint training in Xinjiang. Do you have any comment on that?

A:I think you are referring to the joint training of the mountain infantry troops from the armed forces of the SCO member states, which we publicized the day before yesterday via the official Weibo and Wechat accounts of China’s Ministry of National Defense.

In recent years, various forms of exchanges and cooperation, including joint military training and exercises, among the member states of the SCO, have been normalized and institutionalized, which serves the fundamental interests of the member states of the SCO and contributes to maintaining regional peace and stability.

Q: Not long ago, China and Russia held the 21st meeting of China-Russia Intergovernmental Joint Commission on Military Technology Cooperation. Could you please tell us what achievements have been made during this conference?

A:On November 23rd, General Sergei Shoigu, the Defense Minister of Russia, paid a successful visit to China. During the visit, he met with Mr. Yu zhengsheng, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and General Xu Qiliang, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission, and also held talks with General Chang Wanquan, State Councilor and Defense Minister.

With the commitment and support of the heads of state of the two countries, China-Russia relationship is at its best in all times. As an important component of the bilateral comprehensive and strategic partnership of coordination, the mil-to-mil relations between China and Russia have maintained good momentum of sound and steady development in recent years.

The two militaries have conducted fruitful exchanges and cooperation in high-level exchanges, joint training and exercises and exchanges in other specialized fields. China is ready to work together with the Russian side to comprehensively implement the consensuses reached by the two heads of state and push the mil-to-mil relations up to a new stage.

Q: There’s been a lot of discussion about how U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s foreign policy will affect this region. What would you like him to understand about the Chinese military’s position on the specific issues of THAAD and the South China Sea? What message would you want to send to him at this point?

A:China’s position on the THAAD system and the South China Sea issue is consistent and clear, and known to all.

I think your question is more relevant to the China-U.S. military relations. In recent years, with the joint efforts of the two countries, the military-to-military relations between the two sides have made further progress. The two militaries have conducted effective cooperation on high-level exchanges, institutionalized consultations, inter-collegiate exchanges as well as joint training and exercises.

They have stepped up their sound interactions and at the same time, the two sides have been actively conducting dialogues both at the strategic and operational level to effectively manage and control differences and risks, to provide a strong support for the building of a new-type of relations between major countries.

We have to admit that the bilateral military relations between the two countries still face some deep-rooted contradictions and obstacles. We hope the U.S. side could earnestly respect China’s core interests and major concerns, respect China’s sovereignty and rights and interests and head with the Chinese side toward the same direction, so as to earnestly implement the consensus and requirements of the two heads of state on non-confrontation, non-conflict, mutual-respect and win-win cooperation between China and the U.S., and bring a stable and healthy China-U.S. relations to the new U.S .administration.

The Chinese side is willing to work with the defense establishments of the next U.S. administration, to push for the healthy and steady development of the bilateral military relations.

Q: Recently, a Pakistani naval official has been quoted in a Pakistani media as saying that China will deploy its naval ships to the Gwadar Port in coordination with the Pakistani Navy to safeguard the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. How will China see this particular statement and what exactly is your reaction to this? And also the Indian Army Chief General Dalbir Singh has recently visited China and met with proper leadership of the Chinese military. How does China view his major take-way from his visit? 

A:As to your first question about the Gwadar Port, an operation ceremony of the Gwadar Port was held not long ago, which would contribute to regional economic development. As to the details, I advise you to refer to the competent authorities.

When it comes to the China-Pakistan relations, China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic cooperative partners. The two militaries have maintained close and practical exchanges and cooperation. The two navies have also maintained friendly exchanges and cooperation in such fields as port calls of naval ships and replenishment at ports, etc. 

On your second question, Indian Army Chief General Dalbir Singh visited China from November 20th to 25th and held meetings and talks with General Xu Qiliang, Vice Chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, General Li Zuocheng, Commander of the PLA Army, and General Liu Yuejun, Commander of the PLA Eastern Theater Command.

The two sides exchanged in-depth views and reached broad consensus on the further development of bilateral military relations, the enhancement of army-to-army exchanges and cooperation, and the cooperation on border management and control and border defense.

Q: According to the naval personnel of Pakistan,the PLA Navy will deploy submarines in south Pakistan’s Gwadar Port so as to protect the ports and trade shipping lines in this region. China may also build a military base in Gwadar Port to provide maintenance support for the PLA naval fleet operating in the Indian Ocean and provide support for the PLA Navy to conduct missions and tasks in the future. Could you please confirm that? Besides Djibouti, will the Chinese military construct similar support facilities overseas in other areas according to the need in the future?

Secondly, according to the PLA Daily, currently, the Chinese military has maintained a good momentum of reform and the next step is to reform the military scale and structure and forces organization. At the end of 2016, how is the progress of the goal to downsize the military by 300,000 personnel? Is the resistance stronger than you might think?

A:I have answered your first question a short while ago. I haven’t got any information on the Chinese side’s possible building of similar support facility in other areas.

I have already answered your question about the military reform. We have made increasing achievements in the reform of the leadership management and operational commanding system. Next, we will take follow-up measures according to the overall requirement and objectives of the reform.

Q: Last week, the PLA Air Force, for the first time, sent military planes to fly over the Bashi Strait and the Miyako Strait simultaneously. Some media outlets held that it showed the PLA Air Force had the capabilities to conduct operations both in the South China Sea and the East China Sea at the same time. What is your comment on that?

A:The military training you mentioned is a regular training conducted by the Chinese military according to its annual plan. In the future, we will continue to organize such regular training.

Q: Recently, the construction on reefs and islands in the Nansha islands has drawn immense attention. Could you please tell us the progress of the construction? Secondly, it is reported that the first indigenously-built aircraft carrier has entered the stage of painting and may be launched in mid-December at the earliest. Could you please tell us the progress on the building of the aircraft carrier?

A:On your first question, previously we have briefed many times on the progress of the construction on the reefs and islands in the Nansha islands. The construction is built for civilian purpose with some necessary military facilities for self-defense purpose. I have no other information to offer on the construction of the military facilities. As to the civilian construction, I advise you to refer to the competent authorities for more information.

On the indigenously-built aircraft carrier, last month, my colleague informed you of the latest progress in its construction. As to the specific stage of painting you have mentioned, I have no detailed information about that. If possible, I personally would like to go to the construction site to have a look at that, so that when I come back I can answer your question.

Q: Could you comment on the reports that the Chinese military has been seen operating in eastern Afghanistan? Does China have a military presence in eastern Afghanistan along the border with China?

A:I have also noticed the report you mentioned. Actually, the report by some foreign media about Chinese military vehicles entering the territory of Afghanistan for patrol is inconsistent with the fact.  

According to the information from relevant departments, in recent years, the law enforcement agencies of China and Afghanistan, according to their agreement on strengthening border law enforcement cooperation, have been discussing on conducting joint law enforcement activities, preventing and combating terrorist activities and organized cross-border crimes along the China-Afghanistan border.  

Q: The Global Times reported on Monday that the Singaporean side announced in 2012 that Singapore would like to cut off its military cooperation program code-named “Star Light” with the Taiwan. Could you please confirm whether the Singaporean side has reached any agreement with China or made any commitment to China to stop its “Star Light” cooperation program with Taiwan? The second question is that, recently, foreign media reported that the PLA will reform its military rank system, and the rank of Senior Colonel will be removed; instead, the PLA will have the new rank of Brigadier General or Commodore, and the rank of Senior General, which existed in the PLA long ago, will be restored. Could you please confirm that?  

A:I have already answered your first question a moment ago. With regards to the report you mentioned written by the Global Times, since I know that the journalist from the Global Times is also present here, I suggest you exchange views with her on that report after the press conference. Your second question is about the reform on national defense and the military. I have also noticed that in society and especially on the Internet, there are a lot of remarks and comments on the military reform, but most of them are just speculations or guesses. The relevant authorities of the military will disclose the information about the progress of the reform in due course.

Q: On November 12th, there was an accident occurred in the Bayi Aerobatics Team of the PLA Air Force during training. The female pilot Yu Xu sacrificed her life when she parachuted. Could you please introduce the progress of the investigation on the accident?

A:We feel deeply sad about the unfortunate sacrifice of Comrade Yu Xu during the flight training. We express our deep condolences and our deep sympathy for her family. As far as I know, relevant departments have been conducting investigation on the cause of the accident.

Q: Recently, the “Coast Guard Administration” and “the Navy” of Taiwan conducted a humanitarian assistance exercise near the Taiping Island of the Nansha Islands. What is your comment on this exercise?

A:The Nansha Islands, including the Taiping Island, are inherent territory of China. The Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have the responsibility to jointly safeguard the territory and property left by our common ancestors. And we will keep a close watch on the moves of relevant parties on the Taiping Island.

Q: According to the reports by some Japanese media, the Japanese government decided on November 15th to give new missions to the Japanese Self-Defense Force units conducting UN peacekeeping operations in South Sudan. They would perform missions such as “support and escort”  based on its security law. According to the new task, in the future, at the request of the headquarters of the UN peacekeeping forces, the Japanese peacekeeping troops can support and escort as well as use weapons to protect the United Nations personnel and NGO employees when they are under armed attack. How would you comment on that?

Secondly, on November 29th, local time, a suicide bomb attack took place in Mali, and there were stray bullets shooting into the camp zone of the Chinese peacekeeping troops in Mali. Are there any injures among the Chinese peacekeepers? Please brief us on this.

Thirdly, China has been actively participating in the UN peacekeeping operations in recent years, but there is no Chinese military officer holding high-ranking positions in the UN peacekeeping forces. It is reported that the Chinese side is striving to get the Chinese officers to assume leading positions in the UN peacekeeping forces. Could you please confirm that?

A:Due to historical reasons, the moves of Japan in the military and security field have been attracting close attention by its Asian neighbors and international community. We have noticed that recently some Japanese media conducted a public survey on the Japanese Self-Defense Force’s undertaking of the support and escort missions. The result showed that the majority of the Japanese surveyed are opposed to giving the Japanese Self-Defense Force such a task. China supports the countries in the world in their efforts to actively participate in UN peacekeeping operations. However, we oppose any act of seeking political interests in the name of peacekeeping.

On your second question, the security situation in Mali still remains complex and severe. Conflicts and exchanges of gunfire keep cropping up from time to time. Around 18:10 on November 29th, local time, a car bomb exploded near the Gao Airport which was to the east of the Super Campsite of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali. After the explosion, the Chinese peacekeeping troops reacted quickly and took effective emergency-response measures to deal with the situation. So far there has been no casualty or injury among the Chinese peacekeeping troops there. And the Chinese peacekeeping troops remain in stable mental state and all the equipment is intact.

The Chinese peacekeeping force will closely follow the security situation in Mali and will continue to take measures to improve the protection mechanisms, so as to enhance its quick response and emergency response capabilities. What needs to be emphasized is that China will continue to resolutely participate in UN peacekeeping operations, to fulfill its international obligations as a responsible major country and protect peace and stability of the world.

On your third question, according to my knowledge, all the positions in the UN are open to its member states. The UN has its general principles, specific standards and procedures on selecting specific personnel for specific positions. For years, China has been actively participating in UN peacekeeping operations. China is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, an important financial contributor and a major troop contributor to the UN peacekeeping missions. China has made remarkable contributions and sacrifices in the UN peacekeeping operations and it is reasonable that personnel from China be commissioned by the UN to undertake important positions in relevant departments.

Q: The 14th China-Japan Security Dialogue was held in Beijing on November 28th, 2016. Could you please tell us the achievements of the dialogue?  

A:According to my knowledge, during the 14th China-Japan Security Dialogue, the two sides exchanged views on the regional and international security situation, the security policies of the two countries, as well as the defense exchanges and cooperation between the two sides. Both sides agreed to maintain communication and cooperation in the security and defense fields, to properly manage and control relevant problems and differences, and to further improve China-Japan relations. As to the specific details of the dialogue, I advise you to refer to the competent authorities.

Q: A U.S. think tank said that Vietnam has completed construction activities on 27 islands and reefs in the South China Sea, including expanding the runway and enhancing military deployment on the Nanwei Island, what is your comment?

Secondly, in recent days, China officially reported that in mid-September, the PLA Navy conducted live-troop and live-ammunition confrontational exercises in various seas areas and air spaces including the Yellow Sea and Bohai Sea. Foreign analysts said that such activities were related to the situation in the northeast Asia. How would you please comment on this?

A:On your first question, China has the sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters. For years, some claimants of the South China Sea have been conducting large-scale constructions on the illegally occupied islands and reefs belonging to China, and even carrying out military deployment. The Chinese side firmly opposes such activities and has made repeated and clear requests to the relevant countries to immediately stop the activities undermining China’s sovereignty and security.

On your second question, I think it is very natural and necessary for the military to conduct regular training and exercises because this is a way to improve combat effectiveness of the troops. I think there is no need to over-interpret it.

Q: Firstly, are the PLA naval ships still conducting regular patrol near the waters of the Huangyan Island? Secondly, the spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of National Defense previously confirmed the contract between China and Russia on China’s purchase of 24 Su-35 aircraft. What is the progress of the contract?

A:On your first question, China has the sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters. The Chinese military resolutely safeguards China’s sovereignty, security and its maritime rights and interests.

On your second question, China and Russia have maintained sound military technological cooperation, and the bilateral cooperation in such fields as aviation is progressing as planned.