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Li Shangfu calls for vigilance against 'hegemony of navigation'

By JIANG CHENGLONG | | Updated: 2023-06-04 13:28
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Chinese Defense Minister on Sunday called on regional countries to "stay highly vigilant and firmly reject" acts of some countries outside the South China Sea that exercise their "hegemony of navigation" in the name of "freedom of navigation".

State Councilor and Defense Minister General Li Shangfu warned that those non-territorial countries just want to "muddy the waters" of the South China Sea to "rake in profits".

The defense chief made the remarks in his speech delivered at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, a day after the United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin claimed at the security forum that the US will continue to work with allies and partners to uphold the "freedom of navigation and overflight" in the South China Sea.

Li cited a piece of data to rebut such a claim.

"Every year, tens of thousands of ships from different countries sail through the South China Sea, transporting a total of $3.5 trillion of goods to all parts of the world," Li said.

"We have never heard of any of these ships having any trouble passing through or facing any security threats."

The general said, thanks to the concerted efforts of regional countries, the situation in the South China Sea has generally remained stable, and regional exchanges and cooperation have grown stronger.

He stressed that such sound momentum toward greater stability must not be disrupted, noting that the solidarity among regional countries needs to be cherished.

"It is natural for neighbors to disagree with each other from time to time, and countries in the region are engaging in communication and consultation for proper settlement of differences," said Li on the relations between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"However, some countries outside the region keep sowing discords among us and fanning the flame," he warned. "We need to stay clear-eyed and level-headed over the benefits and risks."

China will be working with other regional countries, fully and effectively implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and push forward the negotiations of the Code of Conduct in the region, so as to build the South China Sea into a sea of "peace, friendship and cooperation", the defense minister said.

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