(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 Wu Qian: 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). It is pretty cool outside. Therefore, we have prepared warm tea at the back row for you. Please help yourselves. What is more, we are honored having the company of friends from the "Hong Kong SAR Civil Servants Session" hosted by China Foreign Affairs University. Welcome! I would like to start today’s press conference with four announcements.
The first statement is about the Beijing Xiangshan Forum.
The 8th Beijing Xiangshan Forum kicked off on 25th October. In his congratulating letter to the forum, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed China’s commitment to a new concept of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. China is ready to work with all countries in a more open way to promote development and security through cooperation and build a community of shared future for mankind. The Chinese military will, as always, be a staunch force for world peace and stability.
There are representatives from 67 countries and 7 international organizations participating in this year’s forum. Participants include 17 defense ministers, 5 chiefs of armed forces（staff）, 26 vice-ministerial-level officials and 100-odd experts and scholars.
This year’s forum will continue to promote the idea of openness, inclusiveness, mutual learning and cooperation. The theme is “Building a New Type of Security Partnership of Equality, Mutual Trust and Win-Win Cooperation”. It puts greater focus on major international security issues and welcomes ideas from all. It is a platform for the world to better understand China and for China to better understand the world. It also plays a positive role in promoting security dialogues, mutual trust and cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.
The second statement is about the Zhuhai Airshow.
The 12th China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition, or the Zhuhai Airshow, will be held from Nov. 6th to 11th in Zhuhai, south China’s Guangdong Province. The Chinese PLA Air Force has sent invitations to foreign Air Forces. Up to date, Air Forces (Air Self-Defense Force) from 43 countries including Russia, Pakistan, the UK, Japan, ROK and Australia have confirmed to participate. During the Airshow, there will be aerobatic performances by the August 1st and Red Eagle Aerobatic Teams from the PLA Air Force, and the Saudi Hawk Aerobatic Team from Saudi Arabia Royal Air Force. The PLA Air Force will also hold the 5th International Military Flight and Training Conference from Nov. 4th to 5th.
Since its inception in 1996, the scale of Zhuhai Airshow has been expanding steadily and the level of exhibition equipment has been increasing year by year. It has become a major airplane exhibition in the Asian-Pacific region or even the world in regard to its scale and influence.
The third statement is about the 6th International Cadets Week.
The PLA Army Engineering University will host the 6th International Cadets Week (ICW) from Oct. 28th to Nov. 5th in Nanjing. Up till now, military academies from 11 countries such as Brazil, Canada, Egypt, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Pakistan, India, South Africa, Thailand and Turkey have confirmed to send cadets to participate. 11 Chinese PLA Army academies will also send cadets to take part in. The ICW is to provide a platform for cadets to have more exchanges and to learn and draw merits from each other.
The fourth statement is about the 4th China-Latin America Defense Forum.
The Chinese Ministry of National Defense will hold the 4th China-Latin America Defense Forum in the PLA National Defense University from Oct. 29th to Nov. 7th. The theme of this year’s forum is “Enhancing Trust, Strengthening Cooperation”. Defense and military leaders from Bolivia, Brazil, Chili, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico, Uruguay and Venezuela will participate. This forum is to improve understanding and strengthen friendship between Chinese and Latin American militaries, promote exchanges and cooperation and add positive factors to the China-Latin America Comprehensive Cooperation Partnership.
Now the floor is open for questions.
Question: We noticed that there were some ups and downs recently in the mil-to-mil relationship between China and the US. Last month, a US warship entered the neighboring waters of the reefs of China and the US Secretary of Defense cancelled his visit to China for the diplomatic and security dialogue. Meanwhile, Chinese Defense Minister and US Secretary of Defense held a meeting in Singapore and the US Secretary of Defense said that the US side was committed to developing military relationship with China and that the US was not out to contain China. What’s your comment on the current military-to-military relationship between China and the US?
Answer: China-US military-to-military relationship is an important component of the overall relationship. A sound and stable military relationship is in the interests of both sides and it calls for efforts from both sides. The Chinese side believes that win-win cooperation is the only right path towards lasting growth in bilateral ties. Building mutual trust is the best glue for more profound contacts between the two countries. Upholding mutual-respect and inclusiveness is the right approach to resolving differences and frictions. The military-to-military relationship is generally stable. Nevertheless, there are also some negative factors. I must say China’s position on Taiwan and the South China Sea remains unchanged. The Chinese military’s determination to safeguard national sovereignty and development interests is rock-solid.
A few days ago, State Councilor and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe held a positive and constructive meeting with Secretary James Mattis in Singapore. Secretary Mattis once again invited Minister Wei to visit the US during their meeting. China and US defense establishments are working closely on the visit. We hope the US side can work with the Chinese side towards the same direction, implement agreements reached by the two heads of state, enhance communication and trust, strengthen cooperation and control risks so as to push the military-to-military relationship into a stabilizer for the overall relationship.
Question: It is reported that the US military is planning to send warships to conduct so-called “military operation to demonstrate force” in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea in November. There are many reports on this and what is your comment?
Answer: We have noticed related reports. China’s position on Taiwan and the South China Sea remains unchanged. The Chinese military’s determination to safeguard national sovereignty and regional peace and stability is rock-solid. Your question reminds me of the recent CCTV special program called “Pingyu Jinren” which is about President Xi’s quotes in his speeches and reports. In one episode, it says President Xi quoted many times the poem “From whichever direction the winds leap, I remain strong, though dealt many a blow.” I think this can be the answer to your question.
Question: Recent media reports from India said that Chinese and Indian militaries may resume the Hand-in-Hand Army Joint Training Exercise. Can you give us more details about it? Will it be held later this year? And where will it be held?
Answer: According to the 2018 international military cooperation plan, the 7th China-India Hand-in-hand Army Joint Training Exercise will be held in China this year. The two sides have agreed to hold the planning conference in Chengdu in November to further discuss on details of the activity.
Question: It is reported that the 9th patch of Chinese peacekeeping troops to South Sudan are all in place now and the Chinese peacekeeping troops in Democratic Republic of Congo also finished the 21st round of rotation. Some comments say that the Chinese military is using peacekeeping missions to expand its overseas militarypresence. What’s your comment?
Answer: There is a lot of media coverage on the rotation of Chinese peacekeeping troops.
China firmly supports the UN peacekeeping operations. We have sent 37,000 military personnel to the UN peacekeeping missions and 13 Chinese peacekeepers sacrificed on the frontline. China is the biggest force contributor among the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council and a major source of peacekeeping operation funding. Our contributions and efforts are widely commended in the world.
In the past 28 years, Chinese peacekeepers have built and repaired over 16,000 km of roads, cleared over 9,800 mines or UXOs (Unexploded Ordnance), treated 200,000-plus patients and transported 1.35 million tons of goods and materials with a total transportation mileage of 13 million km. Currently, there are 2,500-plus Chinese peacekeepers involved in 7 different peacekeeping missions and AORs (area of responsibility). China will actively respond to the UN’s invitation to send more types of peacekeepers and contribute more to the UN peacekeeping operations and peace and security in the world.
Question: The ASEAN-China Maritime Exercise 2018 kicked off in China’s Zhanjiang and this is the first time that China had held a joint military exercise with ASEAN countries. Would you please tell us some details about the Exercise?
Answer: The ASEAN-China Maritime Exercise 2018 is held in Zhanjiang and areas east to the city from Oct. 22nd to 28th based on agreements reached by defense leaders of China and ASEAN countries. Subjects of the exercise include the use of the CUES (The Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea), search and rescue, formation communication operations, etc.. Participating forces are 3 vessels, 2 helicopters and over 500 personnel from the PLA Navy of Southern Theater Command, and 5 vessels, 1 helicopter and over 700 personnel from ASEAN countries.
From today, the exercise moves on to the real-troop phase. There will be 6 subjects including formation departure, formation movement, formation communication, joint search and rescue, helicopter cross-decking and replenishment maneuvering. In this phase, participating members plan to study and explore responding mechanisms and procedures for joint maritime rescue operations between China and ASEAN, to get familiar with the practical operations of the CUES and to improve operation rules through practice.
This is the first maritime exercise conducted between China and ASEAN, and also the first one between ASEAN and a single country. It can help promote better understanding and mutual trusts between the two sides, deepen maritime defense security cooperation, and contribute to the peace and stability in South China Sea as well as the building of a closer China-ASEAN community of shared future.
Please watch the video clip of the exercise we have prepared for you.
Question: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe began his official visit to China today. Could you please brief us on the cooperation between the two militaries? And what is the plan for future exchanges between the two militaries?
Answer: First I have to correct that the expression of two militaries is inaccurate. Japan doesn't have a military; it only has Self Defense Force.
In recent years, some progress has been made in exchanges and cooperation between the defense ministries of China and Japan. A delegation from PLA National Defense University(NDU) visited Japan and we conducted two-way mid-level officer exchanges. The Chinese side is willing to work with the Japanese side to expand our defense cooperation into more areas, enrich defense exchanges and properly handle differences on the basis of mutual understanding and trust. We would like to properly handle differences and make contributions to the bilateral relations and regional peace and stability.
Question: Media reports said that the Russian Defense Minister just visited China. What consensuses have the two sides reached during the visit?
Answer: Russian DM Sergei Shoigu had a successful visit to China from Nov. 18th to 19th. President Xi Jinping and Vice Chairman Zhang Youxia held meetings with him respectively. The two militaries reaches extensive and important consensus.
The mil-to-mil relationship between China and Russia is a clear indication of how close and special the overall relationship is. In recent years, the two militaries have achieved fruitful outcomes and conducted high-profile events in joint exercise, real-combat training and military competition. We would like to work with the Russian side to further improve our practical cooperation, strengthen the comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination and carry forward the mil-mil relationship far into the future.
Question: Reports say that the Chinese military is holding a joint exercise with Malaysia and Thailand. Can you tell us more details?
Answer: The China-Malaysia-Thailand Peace and Friendship 2018 Joint Exercise kicked off in Malaysia on Oct. 20th and will wrap up on Oct. 29th. The exercise is an important activity in PLA’s annual training agenda. It is aimed to advance traditional friendship and promote military cooperation among the three countries, demonstrate the determination and confidence of the three countries to jointly safeguard peace and security in the region, and improve our capabilities in responding to various security threats.
The joint exercise will be divided into two parts. The first part is staff exercise, and the second is field training exercise. In the field training exercise, special operations troops will conduct trainings on11 subjects，including joint patrol, hostage rescue, sniper shooting, and armed escort in a shooting range in Negeri Sembilan State. Navy troops will conduct 10 activities include VBSS（Visit, board, search and seizure）, joint research and rescue, formation movement and helicopter cross-decking in Port Klang and nearby waters in Selangor State. In total, 1225 personnel, 4 combat vessels, 3 large transport aircraft, 3 helicopters and multiple vehicles from the three countries will participate in the joint exercise.
Question: Media reports said that the handover ceremony of the Public Security fire-fighting troops to the Ministry of Emergency Management was held in early October and the Armed Police Force fire-fighting troops became history. Would you please brief us on the progress in the reform of Armed Police Force?
Answer: Deepening the reform of Armed Police Force (APF) is a strategic measure to comprehensively implement the absolute leadership of the CPC over all the armed forces in China and to build a modern Armed Police Force.
By far, reforms concerning the APF are undergoing in accordance with the plan. The reforms of the Internal Guard troops, the Mobile troops, colleges, research institutes, and training units have by large completed; the Gold, Forestry, Hydropower and Fire-fighting troops have been transferred. The reorganization of Border Defense and Safeguard troops will be finished by the end of this year. The Chinese Costal Guard has been consolidated with the APF, with reconfiguration undergoing at present.
Question: It’s reported that two US warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait from south to north on October 22. The Taiwan defense department said that the US warships routinely passed through the international waters in the Taiwan Strait. What is your comment?
Answer: The spokesperson from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated China’s solemn position on this issue. The Chinese PLA knows best all the details of the passage of the US vessels and is fully aware and prepared for all movements of the vessels.
Question: It is reported that the U.S. Vice President Mike Pence criticized China for the military expansion, increase of defense budget and militarization on South China Sea in a speech on Oct. 4th. Do you have any comment on this?
Answer: The related address is full of groundless accusations and slanders and we are firmly opposed to it. The address criticized the rapid increase of defense budget of China and meanwhile, announced the US military budget rise to 716 billion dollars. That shows a thinking that “one may steal a horse while another may not look over the hedge”. In fact, China’s defense budget is only a quarter of that of the United States and our per capita defense budget is only 1/19 of the US’s. For all the time, China has been adopting a defensive defense policy and a military strategy which champions active defense. We are committed to the path of peaceful development and to provide more public security goods to the global community. The growth in China’s military strength is absolutely a growth in peaceful strength of the world.
With joint efforts from China and ASEAN countries, the situation in the South China Sea is getting more stable and promising. There is a saying “The trees may prefer calm but the wind will not subside.” The US side keeps sending warships and aircrafts to the South China Sea and draws other countries in highly-relevant joint military exercises and patrols. That is the real militarization in the South China Sea.
We hope that the US side will view China and the Chinese military more rationally and objectively, and will work with China to strengthen communication, prevent miscalculation, and enhance strategic mutual trust so as to steer the China-US military relationship on the right track.
Question: US President Donald Trump said recently that the United States is planning to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Treaty. What is your comment?
Answer: The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Treaty is an important arms control and disarmament treaty signed by the US and Soviet Union during the Cold War. It plays a role in protecting global strategic balance and stability. America’s withdrawal from the treaty will have negative impacts in many areas. What I want to stress is that we are firmly opposed to the untrue accusations made by the US side on China. China adopts a defense policy that is defensive in nature and a military strategy that champions active defense. We will firmly safeguard our national security interests and will not accept any form of extortion.
Question: Beijing Xiangshan Forum is such a high-profile forum this year. What are your expectations for the future Xiangshan Forum?
Answer: I have three expectations for the forum. The first is that I hope the Xiangshan Forum can be more open. Here we have participants from 74 countries and international organizations. I hope in the future, we can have participants and representatives from more countries and international organizations, and we can sit together to discuss issues of vital importance. My second wish is that the forum can be more inclusive. Actually the world is a diversified world, and just as a Chinese proverb saying “A single flower does not make a Spring”, we hope that the Xiangshan Forum will be more inclusive and can take ideas from all, serving as a platform for brainstorming for international communities. My third wish is that the forum can be more practical. As we know, problems are voices about the times; therefore, I hope the forum can focus on major security issues in the world, including hotspot issues, sensitive issues and trend-leading issues that affect the international security situations. We can conduct down-to-earth research and find solutions to these issues.
All in all, I hope the Xiangshan Forum can continue to make progress and become a better platform. Thank you.
If there are no more questions, here concludes today’s regular press conference, thank you!