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Friday, October 30, 2015, 15:30

Minor incident could spark war: China naval chief

By Agencies
Minor incident could spark war: China naval chief

This undated file photo captures Chinese Naval Commander Admiral Wu Shengli. (China Daily )

BEIJING/WASHINGTON - China's naval commander told his US counterpart that a minor incident could spark war in the South China Sea if the United States did not stop its "provocative acts" in China's territorial assertions in the South China Sea, the Chinese navy said on Friday.

Admiral Wu Shengli made the comments to US chief of naval operations Admiral John Richardson during a video teleconference on Thursday, according to a Chinese naval statement.

The two officers held talks after Washington sent the guided-missile destroyer Lassen into waters within the 12-mile limit of Zhubi Reef, of China's Nansha Islands, in the South China Sea on Tuesday.

"If the United States continues with these kinds of dangerous, provocative acts, there could well be a seriously pressing situation between frontline forces from both sides on the sea and in the air, or even a minor incident that sparks war," the statement paraphrased Wu as saying.

"(I) hope the US side cherishes the good situation between the Chinese and US navies that has not come easily and avoids these kinds of incidents from happening again," Wu said.

The Chinese side also expressed "deep concern" over the incident.

"Such dangerous and provocative acts have threatened China's sovereignty and security and harmed regional peace and stability," Admiral Wu said.

Wu warned that China will "have to take all necessary measures to safeguard sovereignty and security" if the United States persists going its own way and ignoring China's concern.

Speaking earlier, a US official said the naval chiefs agreed to maintain dialogue and follow protocols to avoid clashes.

Scheduled port visits by US and Chinese ships and planned visits to China by senior US Navy officers remained on track, the official said.

"None of that is in jeopardy. Nothing has been cancelled," said the official.

Zhang Junshe, a senior researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said the top-level conversation between naval leaders would "play a significant role" in helping to resolve the conflicts and misunderstandings between China and the US.

"This video call gives them an opportunity to frankly exchange ideas regarding the South China Sea. I think Wu Shengli will take the chance to restate China's policies and stance in the waters and seek to provide the US with a better understanding of the Chinese reefs and islands," Zhang said.

"It also lays a foundation for future cooperation between the two countries, as this is a chance to demonstrate both sides' willingness," Zhang added.

Additionally, Harry Harris, the commander of the US Pacific Command, will make an official visit to Beijing "within this year", Yang disclosed, although he said the details were being negotiated.

Yang added that the Chinese military's determination to protect China's sovereignty and security is "as firm as a rock".

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