State Councilor and Minister of National Defense Chang Wanquan said that the so-called freedom of navigation issue in the South China Sea is “a false proposition”, and it cannot be taken as “an excuse for provocations”.
Chang made the remarks after a minority of attending countries raised the navigation freedom concept at the third ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus on Nov 4.
The meeting gathered defense authority leaders from all 10 ASEAN countries and eight dialogue partner countries - Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Russia and the United States.
According to Chang, the navigation freedom issue in the South China Sea is false as “more than 100,000 vessels sail through the South China Sea every year, and there is no such thing as a country encountering obstacles, troubles and danger”.
“Since there is not any issue over navigation freedom in the South China Sea, it should not become a topic for hyping, not to mention an excuse for provocations,” Chang said.
China is dedicated to implementing the neighborhood diplomacy concepts proposed by President Xi Jinping, and is devoted to building the Community of Shared Destiny along with all the ASEAN countries, Chang said.
“The South China Sea is home to significant routes carrying foreign trade and imported energy of the Asia-Pacific countries. China will not do anything to impact the navigation freedom in the South China Sea, and has provided public security products such as navigation and aid-to-navigation to make vessels of all countries safer,” Chang said.
China has always respected and safeguarded the freedom of navigation and over flight in the South China Sea as well as elsewhere in the world that various countries enjoy in accordance with international law, he added.
All relevant parties are hoped to “tangibly play a constructive role in championing peace, stability, development and the prosperity in the region”, Chang said.
Chang mentioned the illegal entry by a US warship into waters close to a Chinese reef in the South China Sea Oct 27, voicing resolute opposition, and urging the US to “tangibly respect China’s national sovereignty in the security concerns, and do more to facilitate trust building and regional peace and stability”.
When addressing the meeting, Chang said China “supports expanding the constructive role played by the ADMM-Plus mechanism”, and China is ready to consistently deepen security practical cooperation with ASEAN.
With the relevant countries, China is willing to embark on “positive interactions” in the Asia-Pacific region and jointly champion the peace and stability of the region, he said.
China calls upon relevant countries to jointly tackle disputes on an appropriate basis, manage and control risks and shape an enabling circumstance for the common development and prosperity of the region.