China / Government

Ex-minister: Provocations prompted naval drill

By An Baijie and Cui Shoufeng in Singapore (China Daily) Updated: 2016-07-20 07:47

Ex-minister: Provocations prompted naval drill

Zhao Qizheng, former minister of China's State Council Information Office, speaks at the Think Tank Seminar on South China Sea and Regional Cooperation and Development on Monday in Singapore. Deng Zhiwei / Xinhua

Islands disputes 'have existed for more than three decades', will take time to resolve, he says

China's military drill in the South China Sea, which began on Tuesday, is a reaction to the frequent military exercises carried by the US, Japan and some other countries in the region, said a former senior official.

The United States has dispatched 10 aircraft carriers to Asia to carry out military operations in the past years, a source of anxiety for the Chinese people and government, said Zhao Qizheng, former minister of the State Council Information Office, the country's top international publicity agency.

Zhao made the remarks at a news conference on Tuesday in Singapore during a think tank seminar over the South China Sea issue. On Monday, China announced that access to part of the sea would be closed for military drills from Tuesday to Thursday.

Military exercises are expensive, Zhao said, and China doesn't want to conduct such large-scale military drills and has authorized them only because of continuous provocations from the US, Japan and other countries in the South China Sea region.

"The United States, Japan and the Philippines have undertaken actions, and we responded with reactions. It's just like the law of physics," he said.

As Beijing has refused to accept any ruling of the unilaterally launched arbitration, China and the Philippines should carry out talks in areas such as joint development o fishery, natural resources and maritime rescue, he proposed.

"The South China Sea disputes have existed for more than three decades, and it's impossible that they are going to be resolved within three months, or even three years," he said.

Zhang Junshe, a senior researcher at the Naval Military Studies Research Institute of the People's Liberation Army, said that many of the island-seizing military drills conducted by the US, Japan and the Philippines considered China as the potential enemy, and such provocations must be stopped.

"China's military exercises in the South China Sea are focused on self-defense, which is quite different from the muscle-flexing operations of the US and other countries," he said.

Shahriman Lockman, a senior analyst at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies of Malaysia, told China Daily that the South China Sea claimants should consider mediation and conciliation-two methods that are "rarely used but are more suited to Asian countries".

"I see very little chance of Vietnam or Malaysia initiating arbitration proceedings," he said. "The incremental gains from initiating new arbitration proceedings would be outweighed by the risk of complicating their relations with China."

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