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Monday, June 6, 2016, 08:17

Firm line taken on sea dispute

By Zhang Yunbi in Singapore
Firm line taken on sea dispute
Admiral Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of the Joint Staff Department at the Central Military Commission, listens dur ing a plenary session of the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Jun 5. (Photo / Xinhua )

Beijing will not sit by and see several countries throwing the South China Sea into chaos, the head of China's delegation to a high-profile intergovernmental security forum said on Sunday.

Admiral Sun Jianguo, speaking in a raised voice, made the comments at a plenary session of the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, attended by defense chiefs and experts from around the world.

But Sun, deputy chief of the Joint Staff Department at the Central Military Commission, spoke in a lower voice to say he believes that other parties involved have "wisdom and patience" - like China - in charting "a path of peaceful negotiation".

Elaborating on this, Sun said, "Countries that are not involved are not expected to act out of selfish interests and deliberately damage this path."

The different tones used by Sun reflect China's attitudes toward players in the South China Sea issue, where tensions have increased after recent claims by the United States over "freedom of navigation" and an arbitration case brought by Manila against Beijing.

"The world today is undergoing historic changes as never before and the Asia-Pacific countries share good times and bad times together," Sun said in his speech.

During his stay in Singapore from Friday to Sunday, Sun held 17 bilateral meetings on the sidelines with senior defense officials, including seven from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It was the second year that he had represented China at the dialogue.

Major General Luo Yuan, a researcher at the Chinese People's Liberation Army Military Science Academy, said he had noticed that Southeast Asian defense officials had downplayed their stance on the South China Sea issue at Sunday's session and voiced hopes of securing stability.

"Sun's speech indicates China's sincerity in resolving disputes," Luo added.

Vietnamese Deputy Minister of National Defense Nguyen Chi Vinh said at the session that Hanoi will continue to strengthen cooperation with China and other countries to build and consolidate confidence.

"We hope together that we will arrive at solutions that are acceptable to all," he said.

Singaporean Minister of Defense Ng Eng Hen said the Shangri-La Dialogue has been held for 15 years, and that China has become ASEAN's top trading partner.

Zhang Junshe, a senior researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said the Vietnamese official's comments are a call to some of the other parties involved and show that China's policy proposals serve the interests of people of all nations.

At a session on Saturday, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter outlined Washington's ambitions to increase alignment with allies in the region. He claimed that China has embarked on a "Great Wall of self-isolation" when advancing its military presence in the South China Sea.

Carter also said the arbitration case is "an opportunity for China and the rest of the region".

In an indirect response, Sun said on Sunday that some country "supports its allies in confronting China and pressuring China to accept and fulfill the ruling by the arbitration court".

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