(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: Dear 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). First, I have an announcement to make, which is about the joint military training and exercises among China and foreign countries in 2018.
China held around 40 joint military exercises with over 30 foreign countries in 2018. Through these exercises, Chinese and foreign militaries built friendship and trust and improved military build-up and training. There are three features I’d like to mention:
First, Chinese military ran exercises at more levels, including military skills training of individual soldiers, mixed team training exercises at tactical level and joint command exercises at strategic and operational level. I should say we had in-depth and multi-tiered exchanges with foreign militaries.
Second, Chinese military conducted exercises with more realistic contexts, including both non-traditional security subjects like HADR and traditional security subjects. I should say these are all very combat-oriented.
Third, Chinese military built better mechanisms of exercises. We value the effectiveness of each exercise. Meanwhile, we made progress in regularizing joint exercises with foreign countries, which paved the way for conducting high-quality, regular and standardized exercises in the future.
Now the floor is open for questions.
Question: It was reported that on December 18, US Navy issued a statement, saying US Chief of Naval Operation Admiral John Richardson had a video conversation with PLA navy Commander Vice Admiral Shen Jinlong. The two sides recognized the importance of high-level communication and agreed that a constructive mil-to-mil relationship can contribute to a stable overall relationship. Could you please brief us on the conversation? Admiral John Richardson said that US Navy is committed to protecting a free and open Indo-Pacific region, especially taking measures to reduce risks and ensure safe operation. What’s your comment?
Answer: On December 18, PLA Navy Commander Vice Admiral Shen Jinlong had a secured video telephone call (SVTC) with US Chief of Naval Operation Admiral John Richardson at the invitation of the latter. The two navy leaders had an in-depth exchange of views on naval cooperation and maritime security issues. The two sides agreed that strengthening strategic communication between the two militaries and navies and effectively managing risks are in the interests of both sides and can contribute to stable bilateral ties and mil-to-mil relationship. Vice Admiral Shen Jinlong welcomed Admiral John Richardson to visit China and their respective staff are coordinating on that.
Question: We know that the PLA Navy’s hospital ship Peace Ark has concluded its Mission Harmony-2018 and is on its way back to China. Can you brief us on this year’s Mission Harmony?
Answer: I will tell you a story first about ballet dancing. There is a six-year-old little girl in Fiji. Her name is Diana. She dreamed about being a ballet dancer but she couldn’t because she suffered from the hand and foot malformation and the local hospitals were not able to cure her. In this August, the Peace Ark visited Fiji and the doctors on the Chinese naval hospital ship made a successful operation on her. The little girl told reporters that she hoped to visit China when she grew up and she would play ballet in China to show her gratefulness. We can take a look at the pictures.
This story is an epitome of the Mission Harmony of the Peace Ark. In the past six months, the Peace Ark has travelled over 31500 nautical miles, treated 50884 persons/times, given medical examinations to 26231 persons and performed 288 surgical operations. It has done a great job in providing medical service and conducting friendly visits.
Since the Peace Ark was commissioned ten years ago, it has visited 43 countries, and provided medical service to over 200000 persons with different colors and from different countries. It is fair to say that the Peace Ark represents China’s aspiration for peace and respect for life. It is a shining “name card of China”.
Question: Last week, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) conducted joint military exercise. This exercise is larger than all the previous ones which were held in the previous years. So would you please comment on the significance and outcomes of the exercise?
Answer: The PAF and the PLAAF held the Pak-China Joint International Air Exercise ‘Shaheen-VII’ at Bholari AF Base in Pakistan from November 30 to December 23. China’s J-10C fighter jet, J-11B fighter jet and KJ-500 airborne early warning aircraft participated in the exercise and performed with the Pakistani aircraft in several subjects during the joint combat training. The exercise achieved desired results.
Question: I want to ask you a question about the mil-to-mil relationship between China and the United States. The US Defense Secretary James Mattis has recently offered his resignation because of differences of opinion with President Donald Trump. In his resignation letter, he said China and Russia posed a challenge to the US strategic interests and the US must work with its allies to meet the challenge posed by China and Russia. What is your comment? What is your expectation for the successor of Secretary Mattis?
In addition, according to Russian media reports, the Chinese military has recently successfully tested the S-400 missile defense system imported from Russia. Can you confirm that? Some analysts believe the move is a sign that the two militaries are stepping up cooperation in the face of pressure from the United States. What is your comment?
Answer: The change of the Defense Secretary is a domestic affair of the US and we do not comment on that matter on principle. We are opposed to the unfounded accusations against China in Secretary Mattis’s resignation letter. Meanwhile, when in office, Secretary Mattis made positive efforts in making the mil-mil relationship into a stabilizer of the overall China-US relations and we highly appreciate that. The Chinese side looks forward to developing a sound and stable mil-to-mil relationship with the US side when Secretary Patrick Shanahan become Acting Defense Secretary.
On your second question, I have no information in this regard.
Question: My first question is, according to the Kyodo News Agency’s report on December 18, the Japanese cabinet meeting approved the new National Defense Program Guidelines which claimed that the non-transparency of China’s military moves, defense policy and military power is becoming a strong security concern of regional countries including Japan and the international community. Meanwhile, China is rapidly improving its maritime and air combat capabilities and gaining advantages in space and cyber area. The Japanese side decided to strengthen space, cyber and electro-warfare capabilities and establish a space force. In addition, the guidelines proposed to convert Izumo and Kaga frigates into actually aircraft carriers. What is your comment?
My second question is, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu mentioned in December 24 that the proportion of modernized weapons and equipment in the Russian military has reached 61.5%. Do you have any comment on that? And could you please brief on us on the modernization of Chinese weapons and equipment?
Answer: The accusation against China’s defense and military development in Japan’s defense papers is out of thin air and does not hold ground. The Chinese military is firmly opposed to it and has lodged solemn representations with the Japanese side.
China adheres to the path of peaceful development. We follow a defense policy that is defensive in nature and an active-defense military strategy. Our strategic intention is clear and transparent. The Chinese military actively participates in UN peacekeeping, escort and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) missions. It is committed to provide more public security goods to the international community and is always a staunch supporter for world peace.
Against the strong opposition of the international community, Japan is determined to break through the restrictions imposed by Japan's pacifist constitution and continuously expand its armament, which has aroused strong concerns from its neighboring countries in Asia and the international community. We urge the Japanese side to honestly learn lessons for history, and abide by the strategy of purely defensive defense, be cautious in the field of defense and security and take concrete actions to win the trust of the international community.
For you second question, China follows the principle of self-reliance and independent innovation on the development of weapons and equipment, and mainly relied on its own strength for research and production. In recent years, in line with the process of national modernization, the Chinese military has pushed forward the modernization of weapons and equipment in an all-round way, and so far it has basically completed a modern system of weapons and equipment with complete functions and elements.
Question: Media in Taiwan said that a PLAAF aircraft flying around Taiwan this month carried combat warheads. And Taiwan’s defense agency also said that the real combat capabilities of mainland China are advancing rapidly. What’s your comment?
Answer: You mentioned that Taiwan’s defense agency said that PLA’s real combat capabilities were advancing rapidly. As for my comment, I should say I agree with that. I noticed that in the media report, Taiwan’s defense agency also said that this move deserved alert from Taiwan. I want to stress that it is a dead end to deny reunification by using force.
Question: PLA Daily recently published an article reviewing the highlights of China’s military diplomacy in 2018. We have witnessed many highlights in the international military cooperation in the past year. Can you give us more details?
Answer: In 2018, under the guidance of Xi Jinping thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era, the Chinese military has made pioneering efforts in promoting international military cooperation and nailed another high-profile year.
In the past year, we have expanded our network of friends and built a new pattern of international military cooperation that is all-dimensional, wide-ranging and multi-tiered. In the past year, we have conducted more realistic joint training exercises with foreign militaries, which made more contributions to the growth of combat capabilities of our troops. We appeared more frequently on international stages in 2018 and the voice of PLA has been louder in bilateral and multilateral settings. In the past year, PLA’s influence has also been rising, providing public security goods all around the world.
We made a video clip on that. Please watch the video.
Question: Over 10 years of vessel protection missions, the Chinese navy has effectively maintained the security of important sea lanes and provided the international community with numerous security products, which is a remarkable achievement. So how do you comment on the 10 years’ effort and what’s your expectation for the future?
Answer: Based on related United Nations Security Council Resolutions, Chinese government sent the first NETG (navy escort task group) to the Gulf of Aden and the waters off the coast of Somalia for vessel protection missions on December 26, 2008. That was the first time that China deployed its armed forces overseas to protect national strategic interests, the first time China sent navy combat units overseas to fulfill international humanitarian obligations and the first time China protected important sea lanes overseas.
In the past decade, the PLA Navy Escort Task Groups (ETG), bearing the trust from the Party and our people in mind, were committed to conducting vessel protection missions under the law and provisions, innovating new working methods, inspiring the officials and soldiers, and successfully completed the vessel protection missions.
In the past decade, a total of 31 ETGs including 26,000 service members escorted over 6600 Chinese and foreign ships, rescued and assisted over 70 ships in distress and ensured absolute security of escorted ships and service members themselves.
In the past decade, the ETGs provided the international community with many public security products. They participated in the search effort of the missing Malaysian airliner MH370, sent emergent water supplies to the Maldives, provided military escorts to cargo ships transporting Syrian chemical weapons, and evacuated Chinese and foreign citizens from Yemen.
The ETGs held joint patrols and anti-piracy and the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercises with navy ships from over 20 countries including Russia, had regular exchanges with CTF151(COMBINED TASK FORCE) of US and its allies and CTF465 from the EU, and conducted 103 port visits including 63 countries in 6 continents across 3 oceans.
Looking back into the past decade, the PLA Navy was striding forward. Looking ahead, PLA Navy will continue the efforts and contribute to building a community of shared future for mankind as well as world peace and stability.
As we mentioned the vessel protection missions, I’d like to add an announcement. Last Thursday we had a lucky draw on our official Weibo account to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the PLA Navy’s deployment for vessel protection missions. The PLA Navy also made 32 special commemorative envelopes and here are the 10 lucky winners who will receive the envelopes: “花卜头” “胡子才是本体” “不思进取木头花” “烟染戏子颜” “踏雪U林中邮” “风景过客_” “zwzwzwzwz” “阿狸烤鱼豆腐汤” “麻叶绿了”和“小轩窗丿”. Here I’d like to say thank you to all our fans for your interest and support for the news release of the Ministry of National Defense.
Question：It is reported that after the recent peace statement issued by the three ethnic armed groups in Myanmar, the Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar's Defense Services Min Aung Hlaing issued a peace statement, announcing that all military operations in northern Myanmar would be stopped from December 21 to April 30, 2019, and the government will start ceasefire talks with the ethnic armed groups. What is the Chinese military's view on this?
Answer: The Chinese Foreign Ministry has stated China’s position. The Chinese military welcomes and supports the peace statement issued by the Myanmar military and relevant ethnic armed groups in northern Myanmar. We hope that all parties in Myanmar can seize the opportunity to meet each other halfway and realize national reconciliation, peace and development at an early date.
The situation in northern Myanmar has a bearing on peace and stability along the China-Myanmar border. We will never allow any party to infringe upon China's sovereignty and endanger the lives and property of our people for any reason. The Chinese military will take all necessary measures to firmly safeguard national sovereignty and the safety of our people's lives and property.
Question: Chinese and Indian military held the “Hand-in-hand” joint training exercise this month. How does China view this exercise?
Answer: The 7th China-India “Hand-in-hand” joint training exercise was successfully held in Chengdu, Sichuan province from December 10 to 23. Participants from the two militaries exchanged counter terrorist experience and skills during this exercise. This exercise helps improve capabilities of both sides in jointly combating terrorist threats, and enhance understanding and trust between China and India grass-root units. To make my points more clear, I’ll show some photos according to the three different stages of the exercise.
The first stage is adaptive training; we have two photos here.
The second stage is mixed team training exercise; we also have two photos. The first is about the Chinese and Indian soldiers breaking into a house and the second is about the soldiers from two sides conducting rope crossing.
The third stage is comprehensive exercise. The first photo shows soldiers form the two sides conducting vehicle shooting and the second photo shows soldiers from the two sides breaking into a house using abseiling or climbing skills.
Question: I have two questions. The first one: This year marks the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up. China made great achievements in the past 40 years in economic and social development. And we also saw remarkable progress in military build-up. As a military person, how do you feel about it and what are your expectations? My second question: On December 22, troops from the United States, Japan and the Great Britain held a military drill in the Pacific to the south of Japan. Japanese media said that this exercise was targeted at China’s increased military actions in East Asia. What’s your comment?
Answer: On your first question: I am almost the same age as the reform and opening up. I was only 5 years old 40 years ago. At that time, meat was a luxury to me as all my meals were fat free. But now my family members keep talking about losing weight and healthy diet. Forty years ago, the young people in China were fascinated by the dazzling outside world and longed to travel to other countries to broaden their horizon. Today, after visiting many countries, we feel that our home country is the best place. I joined a military academy in 1991. At that time, it was hard to imagine any contact between the PLA and the outside world. But today, it is hard to imagine the absence of PLA in providing public security goods to the international community.
A nation builds itself through hardships and a military steels itself through adversities. From poverty to prosperity, from isolation to opening up, from its own development to international responsibility, China has come afar on this extraordinary path in the past 40 years. I want to stress the Chinese military will never stop its reform and opening up. And the door will open even wider.
As for your second question, we hope that the military operations among different countries can contribute to regional peace and stability, but not the contrary.
Question: According to media reports from Taiwan, PLA aircraft of multiple types flew over the Bashi Strait to the west Pacific on December 18. Some media in Taiwan said that it was PLA’s another flying operation around Taiwan after half a year’s interval. What is your comment? Some media in the U.S. reported that China conducted in late November the first test flight of its JL-3 submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missile. Can you confirm that?
Answer: On the first question, I have three points to make. First, it is PLA’s duty to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity and protect national security. Second, the relevant training is a regular arrangement of our annual training plan. Third, we will conduct similar training in the future.
On the second question, I have no information to release.
Question: Japanese media reported that the Japanese government is planning to send maritime self-defense force vessels to the international fleet review held in Qingdao on April 23，2019， the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army Navy(PLAN). Is the information credible?
Answer: The 70th anniversary of the founding of the PLAN is under preparation, and we will release information in due course.
Question: According to the reform plan of the Party and national institutions, the Frontier Force of Chinese People’s Armed Police Force will exit active-duty by the end of this year。 What’s the progress?
Answer: According to the arrangement in the Reform Plan of Party and National Institutions, the Frontier Force is no longer under the People’s Armed Police Force.
Question: On December 18, a Vietnamese fisherman found a suspected Chinese torpedo off the coast of Phú Yên Province in Vietnam. On December 21, the PLA navy said the torpedo went astray during an exercise and might be carried to Vietnamese waters by currents. Have the two sides talked about this and is there any progress?
Answer: China and Vietnam have discussed the issue through diplomatic channels. The Vietnamese side has actively indicated that it would return the training torpedo at an early date.
Question: In the exhibition celebrating the 40th anniversary of reform and opening-up in the National museum, China unveiled the type-15 light-weight tank for the first time. Can you tell us more about it?
Answer: Over the past 40 years of reform and opening up, the military has been making efforts to build an informationalized equipment system. We emphasize innovation and sustainable development. We follow the overall plan and focus on key equipment. We have made major achievements in equipment build-up and blazed a path of Chinese characteristics in weapon and equipment development. As for the type 15 light-weight tank you mentioned, according to my information, it has been equipped to our troops.
Question: Are there any cooperation plans between China’s Ministry of National Defense and the Russian Ministry of Defense for the next year? Some foreign media reported that the Chinese military recently conducted successful test of the S-400 air-defense missile system. Can you confirm it?
Answer: we are drafting next year’s international military cooperation plans with foreign countries, and we will make plans according to our negotiation and coordination with foreign countries.
As for your second question, I answered the question just now, I’m not aware of the information.
Question: The 7th CISM Military World Games will be held in Wuhan，China. Please brief us on the preparation of the game?
Answer: The 7th CISM Military World Games will be held in Wuhan from October 18-27, 2019. We have made some concrete progress in our preparation.
On registration, a total of 10,049 personnel from 93 countries have registered for the Games including 9,122 athletes and officials, 389 referees, and 172 reporters. The top ten countries with most registered personnel are Brazil (540), Germany (490), France (478), Russia (397), the United States (369), Kazakhstan (341), Colombia (295), DPRK (279), Qatar (264) and Canada (253).
Construction of stadiums and facilities is advancing with high standards. 13 stadiums are basically ready for games. The construction of another 22 stadiums will be finished by the end of next April. Then we will organize joint acceptance tests to ensure zero-error and zero-accident in stadium construction.
We also made progress in logistics for the Games. We have established 39 competition committees, signed 26 memorandums of understandings with the International Military Sports Council. We have recruited 12,700 volunteers and are conducting general training for them. We have built a cloud computing center and started preparing live TV broadcasting of the opening and closing ceremonies.
Question: I want to ask two more questions on China-US mil-to-mil relationship. First, is the mil-to-mil relationship affected by the trade war? Is it going backwards? Second, many western media predict that there is an increasing possibility of a substantive conflict between the Chinese and US militaries in the future. How do you view the prospect of China-US mil-to-mil relations?
Answer: At present, the military relationship between China and the United States is generally stable though the two sides do have different views on some issues. It must be pointed out that the common interests between China and the US far outweigh differences, and opportunities for cooperation far outweigh challenges. China is willing to work with the United States to follow the important consensus reached by the two heads of state to expand the cake of common interests, properly handle differences, manage risks and challenges, follow the general direction of mutual respect and win-win cooperation between the two militaries, and give full play to the role of military relations as a stabilizer of the bilateral relations.
Question: It is reported that China and Japan held the annual meeting of the China-Japan maritime and air liaison mechanism from December 26 to 27. Can you brief us on that?
Answer: Chinese and Japanese defense authorities held the first annual meeting and special meeting of the China-Japan maritime and air liaison mechanism from December 26 to 27. The two sides discussed issues such as maritime security policy, the running of the China-Japan maritime and air liaison mechanism and future defense exchanges. The two sides agreed to step up the establishment of a direct hotline under the mechanism and fully tap into the potential of the mechanism to push forward bilateral defense relationship.
Question: I want to ask a question on China-US mil-to-mil relationship. Does China plan to invite the new Defense Secretary of the United States to visit China in 2019? And what’s the impact of the change of US Defense Secretary on China-US mil-to-mil relationship?
Answer: We are currently drafting next year’s international military cooperation plan with foreign countries and we will make our plans according to negotiations and coordination with foreign countries. As I just mentioned, we look forward to developing a stable and sound relationship when Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan takes office.
Question: Canadian Chief of Defense Force Jonathan Vance said days ago that in October, a Chinese military aircraft “improperly”harassed the normal operation of a Canadian military surveillance aircraft flying over an international airspace near the Korean Peninsula. Do you have any comments on that?
The second question is that the U.K. Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said on Wednesday that he had very deep concern about Huawei’s participation of 5G mobile network project in the U.K., and he thought the Chinese government was likely to take “malicious actions” to threaten the cyber security of Britain. Do you have any comment on that?Answer: I don’t know what the Canadian military aircraft came for by flying thousands of miles to this area. The Chinese military responded according to laws and regulations. Canadian’s accusation against China is inconsistent with facts.
On your second question, the U.K. fabricated the accusation against China out of thin air. I think the remarks by some persons in the U.K. reflected their deep-rooted arrogance and prejudice, anxiety and worries.
At the end of the year, chilling winds and snow storms are sweeping along the borders. As we join our families and celebrate the holidays, we should not forget our service members on the frontiers. Together with the Army Political Work Department Publicity Bureau, we made a short video named Country and Frontier, please take a look.
We can only be young once. Some enjoy quiet life and coziness while some stand up to responsibilities; some focus on self-development while some have the country in their mind. I always believe that being young is not only about joy and fun, but also about the country and duty. Here, we salute all the Chinese border troops with our highest respect！
Here concludes today’s regular press conference, and I wish you all have a fruitful 2018, and a happy and promising 2019！