(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).
I have two announcements to release at the beginning. The first one is on China’s military training work in 2018.
At the beginning of this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited a training court in person and delivered the training commencement order, which led the military on the new course of training for combat. The PLA and the Armored Police Force (APF) have been resolutely implementing the order of the chief commander. We emphasize training for commanders in a leader-first, top-down manner. We stress training for combat-readiness and joint-operation and have conducted joint training in theater commands and quality training in different arms and services. We also promote high standard training organized according to plans and have conducted more basic tactical training and strengthened the supervision over military training. The troops are showing unprecedented passion and a brand new look on training work has been observed across the military.
The military training work has yielded six achievements in 2018：First, we introduced a new training regulation and program, which is a big step towards regulated and rules-based training. Second, we held mass training and skills competition activities, which brought a trend of training across the military. Third, we conducted targeted and force on force training, which helps improve the capabilities of our task forces. Fourth, in a self-reflective spirit, we held a special conference on addressing problems that constrain us from promoting battle-focused training. Fifth, we strengthened training supervision and launched a campaign to combat “peace disease”, which turned around the work style for training. Sixth, we started a pilot project in land planning for military purposes, which blazed a new path for building training facilities. The military will follow President Xi Jinping’s thinking on building a strong military and further promote training for combat.
The second announcement is about the China-Pakistan 7th Shahing Joint Air Force Exercise
According to the agreement between China and Pakistan, Chinese and Pakistani Air Forces will hold the 7th Shahing Joint Air Force Exercise in Bholari Air Force Base in Pakistan from November 30th to December 23rd, 2018. The Chinese side will send fighters, fighter bombers and early warning aircraft to the exercise. This exercise is in the annual cooperation plan between China and Pakistan and is a model of China-Pakistan Air Forces’ cooperation. This exercise will help promote bilateral air force cooperation and improve combat capabilities of both sides.
Now the floor is open for questions.
Question: The Chinese Defense Minister and the US Secretary of Defense have met three times in less than six months and these meetings have generated positive results. But analysts say that there are still many complicated issues in the mil-to-mil relationship between China and the United States. What is your comment on the current China-US mil-to-mil relationship?
Answer: China-US mil-to-mil relationship has always appealed to all of you. It is an important component of the overall relations. It is in the interests of both countries to develop a stable and sound mil-to-mil relationship. It is also a common aspiration of the international community and the consensus reached by the two heads of state. The current China-US mil-to-mil relationship is generally stable. State Councilor and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe recently paid a successful visit to the United States and attended the second round of China-US Diplomatic and Security Dialogue. The two sides had positive and constructive talks and achieved positive results.
Currently, the China-US relationship is at a critical point. we hope that, under the guidance of the consensus reached by our heads of state, the US side can work with the Chinese side to keep strategic communication, promote institutionalized dialogues and exchanges，strengthen practical cooperation and mutual trust, and control risks so as to build the mil-to-mil relationship into a stabalizer of the overall relations.
Question: According to media reports, Chinese State Councilor and Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe visited the United States and attended the second round of the China-US Diplomatic and Security Dialogue not long ago. What agreements and outcomes have been reached between the two sides and what are the Chinese side’s expectations and plans for the development of the China-US military to military relationship?
Answer: Chinese State Councilor and Minister of National Defense General Wei Fenghe made a successful visit to the United States not long ago. His visit achieved positive and constructive results. The two defense leaders met three times in less than five months, indicating the generally stable situation of the China-US mil-to-mil relationship. Next, the Chinese side is willing to work with the US side to implement the important consensus reached by the heads of state, strengthen strategic communication, promote cooperation and manage risks. The two sides should properly organize this year’s Defense Policy Coordination Talks (DPCT) and Military Maritime Consultative Agreement (MMCA), and promote sound and stable mil-to-mil relationship with practical cooperation.
Question: Recently, India and China held consultations and dialogues at different levels. During the recent 9th China-India Annual Defense and Security Consultation, the two sides exchanged in-depth views on border issues. It was followed by the 21st Meeting of the Special Representatives of India and China on the Boundary Question. Both sides will hold the “Hand-in-Hand” joint military exercise next month. What is your comment on the China-India defense exchanges and high-level defense dialogue?
Answer: On Nov. 13, Deputy Chief of Joint Staff Department of China’s Central Military Commission (CMC) Lt. Gen. Shao Yuanming and Indian Defense Secretary Mr. Sanjay Mitra co-hosted the 9th China-India Annual Defense and Security Consultation in Beijing. The two sides held in-depth discussion on the relations between China and India and the two militaries, border control and cooperation, as well as international and regional security situations of common concern. The two sides agreed to follow the important consensus reached by leaders of the two countries to push forward the bilateral military relationship in the principle of maintaining border stability, enhancing mutual trust, developing friendship and deepening cooperation. The two sides also agreed to pass the relevant consensus between the two heads of state on border issues to functional departments and front-line troops, so as to ensure the peace and tranquility in the China-India border areas.
Through consultation between China and India, the 7th China-Indian “Hand-in-Hand” Army Joint Training Exercise will be held in Chengdu, southwest China’s Sichuan Province from Dec. 10 to 23. Each side will send 100 participants. Subjects of the joint training will include adaptive training, basic training, live-fire shooting and comprehensive drills. The two sides’ troops are actively preparing for the training now. The joint training can help promote mutual trust and understanding, deepen practical exchanges and cooperation between troops and improve their capabilities in counter-terrorism.
The joint training is also a reflection of the military-to-military relationship between China and India. As shown in the name of the joint exercise, “Hand-in-Hand” means that the two militaries should work together to bring benefits to the two countries and peoples.
Question: The USS Ronald Reagan just conducted military exercises in the neighboring waters of the South China Sea. Then it visited Hong Kong and held friendly exchanges with the PLA Hong Kong Garrison. What’s your comment on that?
Answer: We are following the movements of the US ships in the neighboring waters of the South China Sea. We hope the US side can do more things consolidating regional peace and stability. The Chinese side reviews each request of port calls by the US ships according to the principle of sovereignty and specific situations.
Question: We noticed that this month China, Laos, Burma and Thailand conducted joint counter-terrorism exercise around the Mekong River. Can you tell us the results and significance of this exercise?
Answer: You are referring to the 76th Mekong River joint patrol along the Mekong River. The media has already covered that and for more details you can refer to the Ministry of Public Security.
Question: Two US navy ships sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Nov. 28. It’s the third time this year. Has the National Defense Ministry of China expressed concern about this with the US government?
Answer: The Chinese military is aware of the sailing of the US ships across the Taiwan Straits and all movements of the US ships. We hope the US side can abide by the One China principle and the provisions of the three Sino-US Joint Communiques, prudently handle Taiwan-related issues so as not to undermine China-US relations and peace and stability in the region. The Chinese military will remain on high alert and resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Question: My first question: the work of collecting the information about retired service persons has been carried out for some time. What is its recent progress? My second question: media reports say Japan is planning to build a space force. Both the US and Russia have established their space forces. What’s your comment on the current situation in the outer space? Do you think that it will become a main trend for militaries in the world?
Answer: The Ministry of Veterans Affairs has done a lot of work to safeguard the interests of the retired service personnel ever since its establishment. It held news briefings recently on the work of collecting information about the retired service personnel. You can refer to the ministry and their spokesperson for specific information.
About your second question: China has always been upholding peaceful use of outer space and opposed to weaponry deployment and arms race in the outer space. China is also opposed to the use or threat of use of force in the outer space. Due to historical and realistic reasons, the international community has always been vigilant about Japan’s movement in the military security area. We hope that the Japanese side can honor its commitment to peaceful development and draw lessons from history and take a future-oriented perspective in its military development. We hope that the Japanese side can be prudent and do more to strengthen regional peace and stability.
Question: According to China’s state media, China is building its third aircraft carrier. Is it true？ And if so, can you give us some more details?
Answer: We will consider the development of China’s aircraft carriers according to our overall plan.
Question: I have two questions. Firstly, the Defense Strategy Committee, which is made up of people from across the political spectrum in the United States, said in a report to the U.S. Congress in the middle of this month that the American military's deterrent capability is weakening and once China "attacks Taiwan", the US seems unable to use its military pressure to "force China to stop". What is your comment? My second question is about China-Japan defense exchanges. A general-level delegation from the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) visited Japan from Nov. 18 to 22 and conducted exchanges with the Japanese Self-Defense Forces. What is the significance of high-level exchanges in defense and security fields between China and Japan in promoting the development of China-Japan relations?
Answer: The relevant report of the U.S. has deliberately instigated antagonism between the mainland and Taiwan and hyped up confrontation between China and the United States, to which we are firmly opposed. The Taiwan question bears on China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as its core interests. It is the most important and sensitive core issue in China-U.S. relationship. The Chinese military is firm in its resolve and will to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
On the second question, the visit is part of an annual plan. In recent years, exchanges and cooperation between Chinese and Japanese defense authorities have made some progress. We hope the Japanese side can work together with the Chinese side to follow the improving momentum of bilateral relations, strengthen defense exchanges and cooperation, properly handle differences and provide positive energy for the sustained and stable development of bilateral relations and regional peace and stability.
Question: In the 12th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, the aerobatic flight of J-10B fighters equipped with thrust-vectoring engines has attracted wide attention. Will this kind of engine be equipped to all J-10B fighters? Will the J-20 fighters be equipped with thrust-vectoring engines?
Answer: Thank you for your attention to China's national defense and military buildup. China's development of weapons and equipment is necessary for safeguarding territorial sovereignty and national security. We will release relevant information in due course and I have no new information to provide at present.
Question: Media reports that a delegation of permanent representatives of the UN Security Council members is on a visit to China recently. China’s Defense Minister met the delegation during the visit. The Chinese side also invited the delegation to China’s peacekeeping standby force and the Peacekeeping Affairs Center of China's Ministry of National Defense. Can you give us more details about the visit and the peacekeeping standby force?
Answer: The delegation of permanent representatives of the UN Security Council members paid a four-day visit to China from November 25th to 28th. On the second day of the trip, the delegation visited a peacekeeping standby infantry battalion. The delegation was briefed on China’s participation in UN peacekeeping operations (UNPKO), observed exercises of tactical subjects, and held a discussion with Chinese peacekeepers (CPK). Visitors were impressed by the professionalism and combat spirit of the CPKs.
Building a Chinese PK standby force is one of the solemn commitments announced by President Xi Jinping’s to support the UNPKO. The Chinese military has been implementing President Xi’s instruction. We have established a peacekeeping standby force of 8,000 troops and have completed their registration, and also coordinated successfully with the UN for the performance assessment on troops. Last month, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the under-secretary-general for UN peacekeeping operations, announced on behalf of the United Nations that all the 13 units of China’s standby force passed the UN’s assessment with high-level performance and were elevated to level II standby force, marking an important progress. Meanwhile, China has also offered peacekeeping personnel training to foreign militaries and trained over 1,500 peacekeepers for dozens of countries. The Chinese military are fulfilling responsibilities of safeguarding world peace and building a shared future for mankind with concrete actions.
In future, China will continue to honor its commitments to the United Nations and take more active part in UNPKO. China will positively consider UN’s invitation to send more types of peacekeepers and make more contributions to UN peacekeeping missions, world peace and security.
Question: I have two questions. First, according to media reports, the third large-scale de-mining mission along the China-Vietnam border in Yunnan province has concluded. Du Fuguo, a soldier assigned to the Yunnan mine clearance brigade was injured during the mission. What is your comment on this? Second, regarding the progress of the domestic-made aircraft carrier, what stage has the sea trial of the domestic-made aircraft carrier entered? When will the flight test begin? Is it about to be officially commissioned?
Answer: We had a relatively comprehensive understanding of Du Fuguo's heroic deeds through the media in the past two days. For more than a month, he has touched the hearts of the people nationwide. Many people are concerned about his situation, and sent their sympathies to him in various ways. When in danger, Du Fuguo sacrificed himself for others, and demonstrated the spirit of a revolutionary service-man in the new era. And his heroic behavior and selfless devotion have received strong support across the country and the military. As one of his comrades, I express my highest respect to him and sincere sympathies for his family.
In the time of peace, mine-sweeping is like dancing on the edge of a sword, and minesweepers are the soldiers closest to death. Our mine-sweeping officers and soldiers are devoted to their career, and they are fearless facing danger. They have made great sacrifices to protect our people and their property. Here, we would also like to pay our highest respect to those most lovely people.
And for you second question, according to the construction plan, China’s second aircraft carrier set sail from the dock of shipyard in Dalian for sea trails to test its equipment platform. This is a regular arrangement in the construction of an aircraft carrier. The construction of China’s second aircraft carrier is making steady progress according to the plan, and the sea trails were safe and smooth and achieved the desired objectives.
Question: Pakistan Air Force recently participated in the international air show in Zhuhai，China. Do you have more information to share? And also would you please comment on the close exchanges and cooperation between the two militaries?
Answer: China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic cooperative partners. The two militaries have been keeping a high-level defense and security cooperation. In the recently concluded Zhuhai Air Show, the Pakistani military also put on a good performance. The high-level cooperation and exchanges in different services between the two militaries show great mutual strategic trust between the two militaries. We are positive about further advancing military relationship with Pakistan.
Question: According to media reports of the Republic of Korea (ROK), a Chinese military plane recently entered the ROK’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) three times. What’s your comment?
Answer: The ADIZ is not territorial airspace. It is a routine arrangement in the annual plan for the Chinese military air-crafts to fly over relevant sea and air space for training. It is in line with the international law and practice. The ROK side don’t have to be too surprised about it.
Question: We have noticed that Chinese and Vietnamese militaries held a high-level border meeting this month, and Chinese and US militaries held a disaster management exchange in Nanjing. Can you give us more details?
Answer: First, I would like to brief you on the high-level border meeting between the Chinese and Vietnamese militaries. From November 19 to 21, Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe, and Ngo Xuan Lich, Deputy Secretary of the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party and Defense Minister of Vietnam, co-hosted the 5th China-Vietnam high-level border meeting successively in Chongzuo City in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and Cao Bang city of Cao Bằng Province in the Northeast region of Vietnam. During the meeting, Wei Fenghe and Ngo Xuan Lich held talks, attended a symposium on border defense exchanges, attended a ceremony marking the 5th anniversary of the establishment of sister counties between two border counties, and watched the joint naval and land patrol and disaster relief exercises of border forces of the two militaries. The two sides agreed that the meeting was rich in content and fruitful in results. The meeting enhanced mutual trust and friendship, deepened practical cooperation and strengthened the friendly atmosphere. The two sides agreed to continue holding high-level border meetings.
We are full of confidence in the prospect of friendly cooperation between the two militaries of China and Vietnam and are ready to work with Vietnam to further carry forward the traditional friendship, deepen practical cooperation in various fields and push bilateral relations to a new dimension in accordance with the principle of long-term stability, future-oriented, good-neighborly friendship, and comprehensive cooperation and the spirit of good neighbors, good friends, good comrades, and good partners.
The Chinese PLA Eastern Theater Command Army and the US Army Pacific held the China-US Disaster Management Exchange 2018 from November 12 to 19. Chinese and US soldiers worked together and cooperated closely, contributing to the steady growth of military-to-military relations through practical actions. Such exchanges and cooperation at primary level can help enhance mutual understanding and trust, learn from each other in professional fields and add positive factors to the development of China-US relations.
Question: Recently the Cambodian Prime Minister mentioned that he received a letter from the U.S. Vice President expressing concerns about a possible Chinese military base in Cambodia. What’s your comment?
Answer: China supports Cambodia’s independent foreign policy, and appreciates Cambodia’s determination in safeguarding sovereignty and territorial integrity. China will continue to provide Cambodia with assistance in its economic and defense build-up. The cooperation between China and Cambodia is practical, equal, friendly, transparent, and mutually beneficial. It is not targeted at any third country. There is no need to over-interpret the cooperation.
Question: My first question is, according to Russian media, Russia has delivered all 24 Su-35 fighters to China and these aircraft will all arrive in China by the end of this year. Can you confirm this? My second question: Japan plans to expand its Self-defense Force base in Djibouti in order to monitor China’s expansion and influence in this area. What is your comment on that? It is also reported that the PLA logistics support base in Djibouti is planning to take over a container port in Djibouti. What is your comment on that?
Answer: On your first question, China and Russia are of strategic cooperative partnership of coordination. Our military technological cooperation projects are making steady progress according to plan. China and Russia will further advance cooperation in accordance with the principle of mutual benefit and consensus-building.
The PLA logistics support base in Djibouti is built to better fulfill the international obligations such as escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and waters off the Somali coast, as well as to provide humanitarian relief. From November 22 to 26, the 30th Chinese naval escort task force replenished and recharged in the PLA logistics support base in Djibouti, and then returned to the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somali to continue its international escort missions.
In the future, the Chinese military will continue to send ships to conduct escort missions in international waters on a regular basis, giving full play to the role of the PLA logistics support base in Djibouti. We will fulfill our international obligations, and will continue to make contributions to regional peace and stability and also to protect major sea lines of communication.
As for the container port you mentioned, we have already released related information before. In order to further promote the friendly cooperation between the Chinese and Djiboutis militaries and better perform the functions of the base, upon the consultation between China and Djibouti, necessary facilities are to be built on the port for mutual use. And for the expansion intention of Japanese Self-defense Force base in Djibouti, I think you should refer to the Japanese side. But we are firmly opposed to Japan’s exploiting China as an excuse for expansion.
Question: Taiwan media reported that the so-called Taiwanese military will conduct a ground shooting exercise in waters around the Taiping Island in the South China Sea from November 30th to December 1st, and it might also test-fire US-made air defense missiles. What is your comment?
Answer: We are aware of related movement. I want to stress that China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their related waters and that the Chinese people across the straits share the common responsibility to safeguard the assets left by our ancestors.
Question: Recently, the media coverage of the first conventional missile brigade of the PLA Rocket Force has attracted wide public attention. It said that the brigade has realized the simultaneous launching of more than 10 missiles by using advanced-control. Does it mean that the Chinese Rocket Force has completed its transition from decentralized manual launching operation of missiles to clustered-controlled automatic launching of missiles? What is the strategic significance of this transition for the rocket force in the improvement of the strike capability in real warfare?
Answer: This is actually a routine military training within the annual training plan of the Rocket Force and not targeted at any specific objectives. Its main purpose is to test the systematic combat capabilities of the missile troops. The training has reached its expected goals.
Like other arms and services of the Chinese military, the Rocket Force conducts scenario-based military training for the purpose of continuously improving capabilities of fulfilling its missions and tasks in the new era and firmly safeguarding China’s sovereignty, security and development interests.
If there are no more questions, here concludes today’s regular press conference. Thank you!