(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 press, 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 make at the beginning. The first is about the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM Plus) and the joint counter-terrorism exercise.
There has been active military exchanges and cooperation under the framework of the ADMM Plus this month. From November 17th to 18th, the 10th China-ASEAN Defense Ministers Informal Meeting, also known as the “10+1”, and the 6th ADMM-Plus, also known as “10+8”, were held in Bangkok, Thailand.
Meanwhile, from November 9th to 22nd, 2019, the Field Training Exercise of ADMM Plus Experts’ Working Group on counter-terrorism was held in Guilin, Guangxi. From the conference hall to the training field, from consensus to actions, we are witnessing dynamic and more practical security cooperation under the ADMM Plus.
To be specific, there are three features: first, strategic communication paves the way for practical cooperation. The ADMM Plus is the highest and largest platform for defense dialogue and cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. In recent years, 10 ASEAN nations and 8 dialogue partners have strengthened strategic communication and enhanced practical cooperation in counter-terrorism, maritime security, humanitarian aid and disaster relief (HADR) and cyber security. Therefore, the high-level consensus can be effectively implemented at working levels.
Second, military actions prop up political consensus. To be in line with the consensus of responding to security challenges through cooperation and jointly protecting regional peace, the field exercise this year is larger in scale and closer to real combat situations than previous ones. Over 800 soldiers from 10 ASEAN nations and 8 dialogue partners participated. Thailand, Myanmar and Russia sent high-level delegations to observe the event. The exercise focused on real-combat subjects such as urban anti-hijacking operation, stronghold seizure and holding, and clearing up terror camps. It helped improve capabilities of participating forces in safeguarding regional security.
Third, the new vision on security is a guidance to protect security. China upholds common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. It contributes Chinese wisdom and solution in the effort to forge consensus, resolve differences, protect interests and defend peace. It also resonates with the theme of this year’s ADMM Plus, which is sustainable security.
The ADMM Plus and the concurrent Counter Terrorism field exercise helped enhance trust and improve capabilities of participating countries. “One plus one is greater than two” and it proves that cooperation requires joint efforts of all while confrontation only needs provocation from one side. As long as we work towards the same goal for peace, the region will be trouble-free for now and prospective for future.
The second announcement is about the “Operation Bright Eyes”, a special medical service operation that will be conducted by the PLA Djibouti Support Base.
At the invitation of the Djibouti government and as authorized by President Xi Jinping and the Central Military Commission (CMC), the PLA Djibouti Support Base will cooperate with the Djibouti Ministry of Health to conduct “Operation Bright Eyes” from December 1st to 25th, 2019. The hospital of the Support Base and Djibouti Peltier Hospital will provide diagnosis and treatment for cataract patients in Djibouti. Ten PLA medical personnel from the hospital affiliated with the PLA Navy Medical University will come to Djibouti for it. The operation will strengthen friendly relations between China and Djibouti and their militaries, and help improve local medical service.
Since its opening on August 1st, 2017, the Support Base has been actively providing public security goods and service to local communities through various means. Facts proved that China’s establishment of necessary overseas logistical facilities is a way to fulfill its international responsibilities and obligations and to promote the building of the community with a shared future for mankind. These efforts have contributed to regional peace and stability and the growth of local economy and society and benefited local communities. In the future, China will continue to carry out such actions to the best of our capacity.
Now the floor is open for questions.
Question: The troops in the PLA Hong Kong Garrison recently were sent onto streets to clear the roadblocks near Kowloon Tong. 25 members of the legislative council of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region issued a joint statement to criticize this action, saying it violated the Basic Law and the Garrison Law. Do you have any comment on this?
Answer: The PLA Hong Kong Garrison’s voluntary participation in clearing roadblocks is an activity for the good of public welfare. It should in no way be seen as a breach of the Garrison Law or the principle of “one country, two systems.” Over the years, the garrison troops have taken part in various voluntary activities such as tree planting, blood donating, and visiting the elderly homes and kindergartens in Hong Kong. Clearing roadblocks is an activity of the same nature, which shows the Hong Kong Garrison’s care for Hong Kong citizens and the people’s military’s fundamental purpose of serving the people whole-heartedly.
Question: The first domestically-built aircraft carrier of China recently passed through the Taiwan Straits. Some analysts say that this aircraft carrier might be deployed in Sanya, a move that might have an impact on the regional situation. Do you have any comments?
Answer: On Nov 17, China’s second aircraft-carrier successfully passed through the Taiwan Straits to carry out scientific research tests and routine training in the South China Sea. It is a regular arrangement for an aircraft carrier to conduct cross-sea maneuvers in the process of its construction. Similar routine exercises will be organized as planned in the future.
Where the Chinese navy deploys the domestically-made aircraft carrier is determined by national security threats and defense needs. It has nothing to do with the regional situation and does not target any specific target, country or region.
Question: The trilateral maritime exercise between China, Russia and South Africa kicked off in waters south off Africa on November 25, 2019. We noticed that this is the first joint military exercise between navies of the three countries, and it’s also the first time for the three countries to conduct an exercise in waters south off Africa. So what’s the significance of this exercise?
Answer: The joint maritime exercise between China, Russia and South Africa is being held in waters and airspace near Cape Town, South Africa from November 24 to 29. The subject is jointly protecting navigation and maritime economic activities, and it will be conducted in two phases, namely port exchanges and sea drills. The Chinese Navy sent the guided-missile frigate Weifang (Hull 550), which is part of China’s 33rd batch of escort task group in the Gulf of Aden, to the exercise.
This is the first time for China, Russia and South Africa to conduct a joint maritime exercise in waters south off Africa. This exercise can help deepen exchanges and cooperation among the three navies, and improve their capabilities to jointly respond to maritime security threats. It also demonstrates the three countries’ strong will and capabilities to protect peace at sea and build a maritime community with a shared future.
Question：We noticed that this month the spokesperson of the Southern Theater Command issued a statement on US vessels’ trespassing into neighbouring waters of China’s islands and reefs in the South China Sea, and we also saw that Chinese defence minister and US Secretary of Defence met in Bangkok, and the 2019 China-US Disaster Management Exchange (DME) was held in Hawaii. What is your comment on the current China-US mil-to-mil relationship?
Answer: The China-US mil-to-mil relationship has its complicated side. It can’t always have sunny days but it won’t always be cloudy, either. Generally speaking, the mil-to-mil relationship is making progress, and the two sides share more consensuses than differences and have more cooperation than frictions.
President Xi and President Trump have agreed to promote a China-US relationship featuring coordination, cooperation and stability, and set the direction for the two countries and two militaries to develop their relations. Since this year, the two militaries have conducted a series of engagements, and the relationship remains stable. Nevertheless, I want to point out that some recent remarks and actions from the US side actually spoiled the atmosphere for the military relationship to grow and undermined strategic trust between the two sides. The Chinese side is firmly opposed to them.
Facts have proved that cooperation is the only right choice for China and the US. We hope the US side can work together with the Chinese side, follow the principle of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, enhance strategic communication, deepen practical cooperation, properly manage differences, and make concrete efforts to build the mil-to-mil relationship into a stabilizer in the overall relations.
Question: Indian media reported that China and Pakistan will conduct a joint maritime exercise in the northern Arabian Sea in December this year. Could you please confirm that?
Answer: Based on the annual exchange plan between Chinese and Pakistan armed forces, China and Pakistan will conduct a joint maritime exercise in Pakistan in January 2020, the Chinese side will send destroyers, frigates, supply ships, and submarine rescue ships to the exercise. This joint exercise can help the two sides to strengthen their military and defense cooperation, enhance their all-weather strategic partnership, and promote the building of a maritime community of shared future. This exercise has nothing to do with regional situation and it does not target any third country.
Question：Recently, USS Gabrielle Giffords and USS Wayne Meyer entered China’s neighboring waters of Meiji Reef and the territorial waters of Xisha Islands respectively. Do you have any comment and have the Chinese side take any measures to respond?
Answer：The spokesperson of the PLA Southern Theater Command has already issued Chinese side’s position on these two events. Here I want to stress that these two events only show once again that the US side is disrupting international laws and norms, sowing disorder in the South China Sea, risking the safety of service members of both sides and undermining the military relationship between China and the U.S. The Chinese military will continue to take all necessary measures to defend national sovereignty and security and protect peace and stability in the South China Sea.
Question: Recently, the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus was held in Bangkok. State Councilor and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe attended and addressed the event. A few days later, the field training exercise of ADMM-Plus Counter-Terrorism Experts’ Working Group was successfully held in China. So how do you comment on the defense and security cooperation between China and ASEAN?
Answer: Over the past year, China and ASEAN have been actively implementing consensuses reached by the two sides, and had productive cooperation in defense and security areas. This is well evident in the following four aspects.
First, China and ASEAN keep close interactions. We have maintained close communication on bilateral and multilateral occasions and strengthened mutual trust.
Second, we conducted mutually-beneficial cooperation such as two maritime joint exercises and the first think tank exchange and achieved win-win outcomes.
Third, China and ASEAN treat each other with sincerity and held the first mid-junior level officer exchange to build friendship.
Fourth, the two sides uphold the principle of harmony. We have taken effective measures to manage our differences, promote coop and protect peace.
It is a new era for China’s development and a new stage for Asean development as well. China will continue to support the integration of Asean and its central role in regional cooperation. Given the profound changes in the world, China and Asean should follow the trend of the time, conduct regular defense engagement at all levels, continue to hold maritime joint exercises, establish a direct defense telephone link at an early date, deepen HADR cooperation, and make joint efforts to safeguard regional security and stability and build a closer China-Asean community of shared future..
Question: According to reports, the Forum of Heads of Military Academies of CICA Member States is being held in Beijing. Could you please brief us on this event?
Answer: The Forum is being held in Beijing. In order to implement the initiative proposed by President Xi Jinping’s at the 5th CICA Summit in June this year, China’s Ministry of National Defense hosts the first Forum of Heads of Military Academies of CICA Member States from November 24th to 30th. There are representatives from the military academies of 14 countries including Bangladesh, Cambodia, Egypt, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. Representatives from 10 PLA military academies also attended the event. The most important part of diplomatic exchanges is the exchange of people. This forum can help CICA member states to grow their military relations and strengthen personnel exchanges. The representatives from different countries held discussions on how to cultivate military personnel for the future during the forum. This effort has explored new fields of military security cooperation under the framework of CICA and contributed to maintaining security and stability in Asia and building an Asian community of shared future. State Councilor and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe met with the representatives in Beijing on November 26th.
Question: Recently, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Japan. It is known that Chinese and Japanese defense authorities are going to establish a hotline under the maritime and air liaison mechanism. Could you please confirm that and give us more details?
Answer: Since its establishment over one year ago, the maritime and air liaison mechanism between Chinese and Japanese defense authorities has been functioning well and playing a positive role in safeguarding peace and stability in the East China Sea. The two defense authorities are maintaining good communication on the establishment of a hotline and are making steady progress. The Chinese side is willing to work with the Japanese side to actively implement the consensus reached by the leaders, improve the maritime and air liaison mechanism, and make positive contributions to the relations between the two countries and to regional peace and stability.
Question: Some US law enforcement and national security officials recently stated that “China’s cyber threat to America appears to be much greater and more extensive than originally thought.” FBI Director argued that China should now be viewed as the “most severe counterintelligence threat” to the United States. Does the PLA have a unit dedicated to the cyber warfare? As for the accusation from the US, does China think the US is a threat in cyber field? Have the Chinese authorities ever recorded any cyber attacks coming from the US targeting Chinese servers recently?
Answer: We are firmly opposed to these groundless allegations fabricated by the US side. China advocates building a peaceful, secure, open, and cooperative cyber space. Together with the international community, China is committed to respecting cyber sovereignty and building a cyber community with a shared future. The cyber space should be a new strategic domain benefiting all people, rather than a new battlefield.
China is a staunch supporter of cyber security and is firmly opposed to and fights against relevant criminal activities including cyber-attacks in accordance with the law. The Chinese military has never backed any hacking activities. The Chinese military has appropriately developed its cyber defense capabilities and resolutely safeguarded China’s cyber sovereignty and information security. In contrast, the US has been vigorously developing its offensive cyber warfare capabilities in recent years. Despite its own notorious reputation on cyber security, the US always groundlessly accuses other countries of launching cyber-attacks. This is a complete double standard and China is firmly opposed to it.
Question：Recently, Jens Stoltenberg, General Secretary of NATO, stated after the foreign ministers’ meeting of NATO members that NATO members believe the space, like air, ground, sea and cyber, is also a combat domain. What’s your take on this statement?
Answer: We are highly concerned about relevant reports and statements. We believe the outer space is a common asset of all human beings. The Chinese side upholds the peaceful use of the outer space, and we are against weaponization and arms race in the outer space. Moreover, we’re against the use of force or the threat of using force in the outer space. We hope that all countries can take concrete measures to protect the peace and tranquility there.
Question: I have two questions. First, US President Donald Trump has signed Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. Do you have any comment? Second, the US media reported that the PLA tested DF-41 missiles on November 22. Please confirm this.
Answer: On your first question, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council have issued statement from the Chinese side. We are firmly opposed to the gross interference by the US side in China’s internal affairs and in Hong Kong. On your second question, I have no information to release.
Question：Recently, there are many media coverage on the situation in Hong Kong and we notice that one of the most frequently mentioned phrase is “ending violence and chaos and restoring order”. Will the Chinese military take new measures to end violence and chaos and restore orders?
Answer：On the situation in Hong Kong, President Xi Jinping gave an important statement on Nov.14 and sent the strongest message about ending violence and chaos and restoring order in Hong Kong. The statement sets the direction and path for stabilizing situation in Hong Kong. The PLA Hong Kong Garrison will obey the instructions of the Party’s Central Committee and the Central Military Commission. It has the determination, confidence and capabilities to fulfill its missions entrusted by the Basic Law and the Garrison Law. And it is able to defend national sovereignty, security and development interests and safeguard long-term prosperity and stability in Hong Kong.
Question：China-US Disaster Management Exchange 2019 was just concluded. Could you please brief us on what the two sides have gained from the exercise?
Answer: According to agreements reached by the Chinese and US militaries, the PLA Eastern Theater Command Army and the US Army Pacific (USARPAC) held a disaster management exchange in Hawaii Island of Hawaii from November 14 to 24. The exercise included three parts, expert academic exchange, table-top exchange and practical field exchange. The two sides had discussions over nine subjects including wildfire fighting and lessons-learned in HADR missions. Furthermore, the two sides simulated the establishment of a multinational coordination center and a joint command post for Chinese and US task forces. During the exchange, soldiers from China and the US were able to share their know-how on HADR and jointly exercised on disaster evaluation, search and rescue, medical aid, detection and decontamination of hazardous substances and relocation of displaced people.
Question: China’s domestically-built aircraft carrier passed through the Taiwan Straits and anchored at Sanya Military Port this month. Does this mean that it will be commissioned soon?
Answer: China’s second aircraft carrier is conducting various trials according to plan and we are making steady progress. The date of commissioning will be decided by the progress in its construction and trials.
Question: This month, China's second aircraft carrier passed through the Taiwan Strait. The outside world is interested in China's future plan for aircraft carriers. What is the military's consideration on this? Second question, the spokesperson pointed out that the actions of the US warships pose threats to service members on the two countries' naval vessels. Does this mean that the increasing provocations by the United States Navy will increase the chance of accidents between the naval vessels of China and the US?
Answer: On the first question, developing aircraft carriers is a major strategic decision based on our national security and overall development. We will plan the development of aircraft carriers in accordance with our economic and social development and the needs of national defense and military build-up.
On the second question, despite warnings from the Chinese side, US warships and aircraft repeatedly and deliberately trespassed into neighboring waters and airspace of China’s islands and reefs in the South China Sea. These actions jeopardize regional peace and stability, undermine China’s sovereignty and security, and endanger the safety of the front-line service members of both sides. These are very dangerous provocations. We urge the US side immediately stop such operations that harm China's interests. The Chinese military has always been on high alert and will take all necessary measures to resolutely safeguard our national sovereignty, security and development interests.
If there are no more questions, here concludes this month’s regular press conference. Thank you!