(The following English text of the press conference is for reference. In case of any divergence of interpretation, the Chinese text shall prevail.)
Senior Colonel Ren Guoqiang: Friends from the media, good afternoon! Welcome to this month’s regular press conference of the Ministry of National Defense (MND) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Here, I especially want to welcome 11 new domestic and foreign media outlets which are participating in the press conference of the MND for the first time. They are the South-East TV (SETV), the Sansha Satellite TV (SSTV), the Paper, the Hong Kong Satellite TV (HKSTV), the Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB), the Kazinform, the China Arab TV (CATV), the Middle East News Agency (MENA), the National Brodcasting Company (NBC), the Nippon Housou Kyoukai (NHK), and the Agencia Informativa Latinoamericana.Welcome to join the team of the regular press conference of the Defense Ministry!
We hope that you can actively cover the Chinese military, spread the Chinese military’s voice, present its strength and its contributions, so as to reveal a real and objective Chinese military to the International Community. Thank You!
I’d like to start today’s press conference with one statement.
To deepen the comprehensive and strategic partnership between China and Africa, to better adapt to the changing security situations in Africa, and to better fit new requirements of defense and security cooperation between China and Africa, the Chinese Ministry of National Defense will host the first Defense and Security Forum between China and Africa from June 26th to July 10th, 2018 in China. The Chinese side will invite senior leaders from defense authorities, top military officers, as well as the leaders of regional organizations of Africa to attend the forum.
The theme of this year’s forum is “working together, offering timely help”, such topics as the regional security issues, the independent security capabilities of Africa, the defense and security cooperation between China and Africa and so on will be discussed. During the forum, the Chinese side will arrange field visits to the Army, the Navy and the Air Force units attached to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). We believe that this forum will be a significant platform for China and Africa to seek peace, development and cooperation, so as to promote peace and stability in Africa and the world at large.
Now the floor is open for questions.
Question: In late April, President Xi Jinping held an unofficial meeting with Indian Prime Minister Modi and reached important consensus on practical cooperation and proper management of differences. Would you please brief us on the cooperation programs in defense and security fields between the two militaries in the near future?
Answer: Both China and India are big countries in Asia and we are also each other’s important neighbor. The Chinese side attaches great importance to the development of the mil-to-mil relationship with the Indian side. Under the guidance of the important consensus reached by the two heads of state, we are willing to work with the Indian side to expand exchanges, strengthen cooperation, built mutual trust, properly manage differences, and facilitate the development of the mil-to-mil relationship in a healthy and stable manner, so as to jointly maintain peace and tranquility in border areas and safeguard peace and stability in this region.
Currently, the two sides are in consultation with each other on the upcoming visit to India by the Border Defense Delegation from the Western Theater Command of the PLA. These border-related exchanges between the two sides at different levels will help to strengthen the management and control of border areas. They will also help to build trust between the field troops of the two sides and translate the consensus reached by the two heads of state into real actions. The two sides are also in contact with each other regarding other cooperation programs. We will release relevant information in due course.
Question: During a recent interview, a military expert named Yin Zhuo said that after years’ practice and exploration, the aircraft carrier Liaoning is capable of fighting and is operational at a certain degree. Does it mean that the PLA’s first aircraft carrier has formed combat capability? In addition, the US has recently cancelled its invitation to the PLA Navy to participate in the RIMPAC exercise. Do you think this will impact the exchange programs between the two militaries? A follow-up question is that the US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has planned his visit to China, do you think his visit will be postponed or even cancelled?
Answer: Thank you for the attention you paid to China’s national defense and military development. Since it was commissioned, the aircraft carrier Liaoning battle group has conducted a series of comprehensive exercises including combat operational exercises in the open sea according to the training plan. These training exercises have effectively tested the forming and maintaining of the comprehensive offense and defense system of the aircraft carrier battle group, and also helped deepen the training of the carrier battle group to improve combat operation in the open sea. It’s fair to say that the aircraft carrier battle group has initially formed system combat capability.
On your second question, it is actually a question on the mil-to-mil relationship between China and the US. At present, the mil-to-mil relationship between China and the US have been stable in general, but at the same time, we do witness some negative elements emerging, which consequently impacted, interfered, or even harmed the mil-to-mil relationship between the two countries. A sound and healthy mil-to-mil relationship is in the common interests of the two sides. We hope the US side can meet the Chinese side halfway and implement the important consensus of the two heads of state by strengthening strategic communication, effectively managing risks, handling differences in a constructive manner, constantly accumulating mutual trust and orderly advancing cooperation, so as to promote the development of the mil-to-mil relationship in a healthy and stable manner.
When it comes to the planned visit of the US Defense Secretary Mattis to China, currently the US side has officially put forward its proposals and arrangements on the visit. The two sides are now closely working on the specifics of the visit.
Question: The Shangri-La Dialogue will be held soon. What topics are on the agenda of the Chinese delegation? What specific arrangements does the Chinese delegation have during the Dialogue?
Answer: The Shangri-La Dialogue is a multinational forum. Lt. Gen. He Lei, vice president of the PLA Academy of Military Science (AMS), will lead a delegation to the 17th Asia Security Summit or Shangri-La Dialogue. Some Chinese scholars and experts will also participate in the Dialogue.
During the Dialogue, Lt. Gen. He Lei will deliver a speech centered on “Strategic Influence of the Development of Military Strength in the Asia-Pacific Region”. He will focus on publicizing and introducing such important ideas and concepts as the building of the community with a shared future for mankind and the new type of international relations proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The Chinese delegation will also have in-depth exchange of views with officials from foreign defense establishments, military officers as well as experts and scholars from other participating countries on hotspot issues in the security and defense field. In addition, Lt. Gen. He will also have some bilateral meetings with the representatives of relevant countries.
Question: Remarks on veterans by a leader of a publication media group have caused online discussion. Do you have any response to that?
Answer: The Party Central Committee, Central Military Commission and President Xi have always cared for veterans. They've taken a number of practical and effective measures including setting up the Department of Veteran Affairs, strengthening the building of the service and support system for veterans, introducing preferential policies for the resettlement of veterans, and maintaining the legitimate rights and interests of veterans.
The veterans are the precious treasure of the Party and the country. Hence, they deserve more care and love. When they were in active service, they fought to safeguard this country and made their sacrifices and contributions to national defense and military development. Now, they came back to their civilian life. They continuously work hard to contribute to our economic and social development in all walks of life. There are such well-known outstanding representatives as the “General farmer” Gan Zuchang, the “hero captain” Liu Chuanjian and Song Xi who is a decommissioned female soldier from the Peking University.
The people's military came from the people, served the people and returned to the people. We believe that veterans will never forget why they start in the first place and keep fighting, carry forward the glorious tradition and fine style of work of our military and make new contributions to the Party and the people on their new posts.
Question: According to foreign media reports, China has started the construction of a new dock in Djibouti Logistic Support base, and the length of the dock will exceed 450 meters, which is capable of berthing the Chinese navy destroyers and large supply ships. Could you please confirm the news? Secondly, US Secretary of Defense Mattis recently officially stated that the US would rename its Pacific Command the Indo-Pacific Command, which interpreted by the US media as a move to to confront China in this region. What’s your comment on that?
Answer: The construction of the PLA Djibouti Logistic Support Base is to better implement our international responsibility and obligations of escort and humanitarian assistance in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia. It will also be a boost to local economic and social development there, and it will enable China to make even bigger contributions to maintaining peace and stability in Africa and the world. At the same time, to further promote the friendly cooperation between the two militaries and to enable the base to better perform its supportive functions, upon the consultation between China and Djibouti, we will build necessary facilities for the use of both sides. As to your second question, we have noted relevant reports, and will keep following the development of the situation.
Question: It is reported that during his inspection to the Academy of Military Science, President Xijinping stated that it is necessary to strengthen innovation in military theories, defense technologies and the organizational models of the military scientific research work. Could you please brief us on the specific measures taken to implement President Xi’s important instructions?
Answer: Thank you for your attention on the construction of the Chinese military. President Xi attaches great importance to the development of modern military science. During his recent visit to the Academy of Military Science, President Xi stressed that military is an important force to guide military practice and lead military revolution.
The officers and men of PLA are implementing the important instructions of President Xi, and we are trying to run the engine of innovation in military science at full speed. We build the military under political guidance, strengthen the army through reform, develop the army through science and technology and manage the army in accordance with the law. We insist the integration between theory and technology, research and application, the military and the civilian. We strive to promote innovation in military theory, defense technology, the organizational model of military science and technology work. We work hard to speed up the implementation of the strategy of develop the army through science and technology and promote the development of modern military science.
Basically, there are four measures. First, we will stick to the Party’s absolute leadership over the military and strive to open a new chapter of military science and technology in the new era. Second, we will focus on the problems concerning war and combat, and strive to make innovations in military science in the hope of forming an advanced combat theory with our own characteristics which are in accordance with the laws of modern warfare. Third, we will speed up the implementation of the strategy of building a strong military through science and technology and also speed up indigenous innovation. Finally, we will push forward policy and institutional reforms in military science and technological research so as to enable our mechanism to run smoothly with greater efficiency.
Question: General Zhang Youxia, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission, has just come back from his visit to Pakistan. Would you please tell us what important outcomes have been achieved out of his visit?
Answer: From May 27th to 20th, upon the invitation of the Pakistani military, General Zhang Youxia, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission, led a delegation to visit Pakistan. During his visit, he had meetings with military and government leaders of Pakistan. They had in-depth exchange of views on regional security situation, strengthening cooperation between the two militaries in areas of counter-terrorism, joint training and joint exercises, equipment and technology as well as peacekeeping. The two sides have agreed to further enhance communication and cooperation under the multilateral framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Quadrilateral Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism in Counter-Terrorism by Afghanista-China-Pakistan-Tajikistan Armed Forces.
Vice Chairman Zhang’s visit is a concrete action to further implement the important consensus reached by the two heads of state on further promoting the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between China and Pakistan. It will help enhance the strategic communication between the two countries, safeguard the strategic interests of the two countries, maintain the peace and stability in South Asia and promote peace in the world.
Question: At the US Pacific Command change of command ceremony, outgoing Commander Admiral Harris said, “China remains our biggest long-term challenge. Without focused involvement and engagement by the United States and our allies and partners, China will realize its dream of hegemony in Asia." What’s your response to this? The US Defense Secretary Mattis recently told reporters that the US will continue its freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea. He said that the operations have gained support from the vast majority of countries and the only voice against the operations came from China. What’s your comment on this?
Answer: We have noticed that the Admiral has often made some remarks harming the mil-to-mil relationship between China and the US. We firmly oppose such groundless accusations against the Chinese military. We have always adhered to the peaceful development and pursued a national defense policy that is defensive in nature. At the same time, we have always believed that exchanges and cooperation between the two militaries are in the common interests of both sides and meet the common expectations of the international community. The US and China should work in the same direction and the US should do more things that are conducive to the development of bilateral military relations.
On the second question, we have noted that the US side has recently ignored the facts and hyped up the so-called "militarization of the South China Sea”. We are firmly opposed to it. China has indisputable sovereignty over relevant islands in the South China Sea and their adjacent waters. It is the legitimate right of a sovereign state to build and deploy some necessary defense facilities on its own territory. No country has the right to make irresponsible remarks about this. We hope that the US will bear in mind the overall situation, look far ahead, abandon zero-sum thinking, properly handle differences, and work hard to make mil-to-mil relations a stabilizing factor in China-US relations.
Question: From April 23 to 24 this year, the defense ministers’ meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Member States was held successfully in Beijing. This is the first defense ministers’ meeting after the expansion of the SCO. The SCO Summit will be held in Qingdao from June 9 to 10. What military cooperation and exchange activities will be held among the SCO member states in the second half of this year? Secondly, it is said that the Philippines is renovating the runway for military aircraft on the Zhongye Island in the South China Sea. Do you have any comment on that?
Answer: Defense and security is an important area of cooperation for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). In recent years, defense and security cooperation has been very smooth and effective. All the mechanisms including the defense ministers’ meeting and military chiefs’ meeting among the SCO member states have been constantly improved. Multiple bilateral and multilateral joint military exercise focused on counterterrorism have been conducted. Extensive exchanges in such fields as personnel training and border cooperation have been conducted.
In April of this year, the 15th Defense Ministers’ Meeting as well as the 5th "Fanfare for Peace" Military Tattoo of the SCO were held successfully in Beijing. In the second half of this year, we will hold a joint military exercise “Peace Mission-2018” in Russia. Currently, related expert groups are in the third round of consultation refining the specific arrangement of this exercise.
China is willing to continue its exchanges and cooperation with member states of the SCO in the field of defense and security on the basis of mutual trust and mutual benefit, enhance capabilities to jointly meet the new challenges and new threats, facilitate the security and defense cooperation of the SCO to go deeper and be more practical and play an active role in maintaining peace and stability in this region.
On your second question, we’ve also noted the movement. what I would like to stress is that China has indisputable sovereignty over relevant islands in the South China Sea and the adjacent waters. We hope that relevant parties can proceed from the big picture of the bilateral relationship and the regional peace and stability, and work in the same direction with China to jointly maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea. The Chinese military will as always continue to safeguard its national sovereignty and security, and maintain regional peace and stability.
Question: We have seen some pictures on the Internet capturing two Type 055 destroyers hanging the national flags. And it is also speculated that both of the two destroyers will be launched at the same time very soon. Could you please confirm that?
Answer: They are a new type of destroyers with the displacement of 10,000 tons developed and produced by China independently. It is an iconic warship for the Chinese navy to realize strategic transformation and development. The subsequent construction of the new type destroyers is proceeding smoothly as planned.
Question: It was reported recently that the carrier-borne aircraft on the Liaoning Aircraft Carrier had acquired the technique of taking off and landing at night, which means that the aircraft strike group is capable of around-the-clock combat operations. It makes China one of the few countries in the world which are capable of flying and landing carrier-borne aircraft at night. Please brief us on the significance of the technique.
Answer: The carrier-borne aircraft F-15 was able to conduct ski-jump takeoff and cable arrested landing. It indicates that the carrier-borne aircraft has acquired the technique of taking off and landing at night. Just as what I said, the Liaoning Aircraft Carrier striking group has initially formed system combat capabilities.
Question: Just now you released information of the security and defense forum between China and Africa. The only one African country that does not have diplomatic relations with China is Swaziland. Will China invite Swaziland to participate in the China-Africa security and defense forum?
Answer: Currently, the preparatory work of the first China-Africa security and defense forum is in progress. We will invite defense department leaders, senior military officers of African countries as well as heads of regional organizations to participate in the forum. We will release information about the preparatory progress of the forum in due course.
Question: On April 24, the US House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019. The Act calls for strengthening Taiwan’s military strength and urges the US to follow the “Taiwan Travel Act" and send senior military officers to visit Taiwan. What is your comment? Secondly, on April 25, the PLA Air Force’s H-6k bomber conducted night cruise around the Taiwan Island for the first time, while the Taiwan military was rehearsing the missile-interception subject in its Han Kuang Exercise. Is the PLA's action targeted to some extent?
Answer: The Taiwan question concerns China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity. The China-related content of the US Congress’s Defense Authorization Act is full of Cold War and Zero-Sum mentality, interferes with China's internal affairs and harms China's core interests. The Chinese military is strongly dissatisfied with and firmly opposed to it.
We urge the US side to fully recognize the serious harm of the negative China-related clauses in the Act, abide by the one-China policy and the principles of the three China-US joint communiqués, delete the relevant negative clauses in the Act, prudently and properly handle Taiwan-related issues, and take concrete actions to maintain the mil-to-mil relationship between China and the US and the peace and stability across the Taiwan strait. On the second question, the PLA Air Force recently conducted a cruise around the Taiwan Island in an effort to practice and enhance its capability to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity. We will continue to organize similar training in the future.
Question: Recently, we’ve seen a picture capturing the two aircraft carriers of China in Dalian at the same time. Some people said that the aircraft carrier Liaoning is finally not alone. Can you introduce the progress of the sea trial of the domestically-built aircraft carrier? According to the recent online articles, progress on construction of China's third aircraft carrier and amphibious assault ships has been encouraging. Could you please brief us on the third aircraft carrier?
Answer: The second aircraft carrier of China left the shipyard in Dalian on May 13 to related waters to conduct a sea trial. The sea trial is aimed at testing and verifying the reliability and stability of the dynamic system of the aircraft carrier. On May 18, it completed the test task and returned to the Dalian shipyard. As to when the aircraft carrier will be commissioned, we will decide it according to the progress of construction progress and testing.
As to the long-term development of China’s aircraft carriers you have mentioned, we will take all factors into account including the country's economic and social development as well as the needs of national defense and military construction.
Question: For the first time, the South China Sea issue has been explicitly included in the Defense Authorization Act recently passed by the US House of Representatives. Some analysts believe that the US will continue to play the South China Sea card. What is your comment? Will China conduct dialogue with other countries on the South China Sea issue in the 2018 Shangri-La Dialogue?
Answer: We have already expressed strong objection to the relevant wrong remarks and actions of the US on the South China Sea recently. Here what I would like to restate is that China has Indisputable sovereignty over relevant islands inthe South China Sea and the adjacent waters. The US hypes up the South China Sea issue. It does not accord with facts or the development trend of China-US relations and is detrimental to regional peace and stability. China has always been committed to working with countries in the region to jointly safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea. We hope the US meets China halfway and do more to contribute to regional peace and stability instead of the opposite.
Question: British media reported that a foreign remote sensing satellite captured a picture of type 039 Chinese submarine docking at the Djibouti military base. The military officers of India and the US also voiced their concerns over the presence of Chinese submarines in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. What’s your comment on that?
Answer: I do not have any information to offer.
Here concludes today’s regular press conference. Thank you!