Senior military officials agree to manage differences
China, US pledge to control risk
BEIJING—Senior military officials from Beijing and Washington have pledged to try to manage their differences in a constructive way and effectively control risks, following recent maritime tensions in the South China Sea.
Tensions rose after the US guided-missile destroyer William P. Lawrence entered Chinese waters on Tuesday off Yongshu Reef in the South China Sea in what the US claims was a “freedom of navigation” operation.
Observers said it will take time to see if Washington will match its words with deeds, as the United States may seek to increase its military presence in the region.
During a video conference on Thursday night Beijing time, Chinese Chief of the General Staff Fang Fenghui told US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford that China values freedom of navigation in the South China Sea “more than any other country in the world”.
Fang, also a member of China’s Central Military Commission, urged the two sides to bear in mind the overall situation and to constructively manage their differences.
Dunford was quoted by Xinhua News Agency as saying that the US is willing to work with China to establish an effective mechanism for risk control in order to peacefully maintain stability in the South China Sea.
The conversation came at a time when Beijing and Washington have exchanged barbs after US military patrols and exercises near China’s Nansha Islands.
Fu Mengzi, vice-president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said both countries agree on the need to maintain stability in the South China Sea, and neither wants conflict.
“It is not worth it if relations between the two militaries deteriorate over the South China Sea issue,” he said, adding that the US should play a more constructive role to resolve the issue.
During a regular news conference on Friday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang blamed “a certain country” that is thousands of kilometers away from the South China Sea for “stirring up tensions in the region”.
“Unlike this country, China sincerely hopes to maintain regional peace, stability, security and prosperity, because this is in accordance with our own interests,” Lu said.
China’s stance on the South China Sea has won wide support from the international community, with nearly 40 countries voicing support for its statements.
Meanwhile, a statement issued at the close of the seventh ministerial meeting of the China-Arab Cooperation Forum on Thursday said that the participating Arab nations support China’s efforts to peacefully resolve territorial and maritime differences through dialogue.
Fu of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations said Washington is likely to continue to take advantage of the South China Sea issue to realize its goal of an Asia-Pacific rebalance.
James Baker, who served as secretary of state under former president George H.W. Bush, told China Daily that although there are areas of converging interests with China, areas of tension will continue to exist. “But we need to manage differences that are going to exist.”—CD