China defense ministry acts as Japan buys its Diaoyu Islands

(Reuters) – Japan brushed off stern warnings by China on Tuesday and bought a group of islands that both sides claim in a growing dispute that threatens to deepen strains between Asia’s two biggest economies.

A territorial dispute between China and Japan has intensified with Beijing sending patrol ships near disputed East China Sea islands in a show of anger over Tokyo’s purchase of the largely barren outcroppings from their private owners.

The arrival on Tuesday of the two patrol ships of the China Marine Surveillance off the islands was meant to assert China’s claims, said the Chinese government’s official news agency, Xinhua.

The marine agency is a paramilitary force whose ships are often lightly armed, and Xinhua said it had drawn up a plan to safeguard China’s sovereignty of the islands.

BEIJING, Sept. 11 (Xinhua) — The armed forces of China are completely opposed to the Japanese government‘s move to “purchase” the Diaoyu Island and two of its adjacent islands, Chinese Defense Ministry Spokesman Geng Yansheng said Tuesday.

Xinhua said two marine surveillance ships had reached the waters near the islands to “assert the country’s sovereignty” (AFP/JIJI PRESS/File, Jiji Press)

Geng issued a statement on the Japanese government’s implementation of so-called “nationalization” of the Diaoyu Islands.

Despite strong opposition from the Chinese side, the Japanese government blatantly announced on Sept. 10 to “purchase” the Diaoyu Island and its affiliated Nan Xiaodao and Bei Xiaodao. This act is a severe infringment of Chinese territorial sovereignty, Geng said.

Geng said the Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands are China‘s inherent territory. China has sufficient historical and jurisprudential evidence surrounding this.

Geng said the Japanese government’s action and the so-called “island purchase” was totally illegal and invalid.

In the statement, Geng said since the start of the year, the Japanese government has endorsed right wing forces to clamor for the “island purchase” and even move in to “purchasing the islands” by itself. He said this severely harmed the general situation of the development in China-Japan relations.

Geng said in recent years, Japan has expanded armament under various excuses, frequently incurred tension in regional situations and repeatedly stirred up troubles on the issue of the Diaoyu islands. Such moves are worthy of high vigilance by its Asian neighbors and the international community.

“The Chinese government and armed forces stand firm and are unshakeable in its determination and will safeguard sovereignty over the nation’s territories,” Geng said.

“We are watching closely the evolution of the situation and reserve the right to take reciprocal measures,” Geng said.


TOKYO, Sept. 11 (Xinhua) — The Japanese government has exchanged the official contract on the purchase of Diaoyu Islands with Kurihara family whom the Japanese side called “the private owner”, NHK reported Tuesday morning.

Japanese Cabinet on Tuesday morning decided to disburse reserve funds to purchase part of China’s Diaoyu Islands, before signing a sales contract with whom the Japanese side called “the private owner” of the islands scheduled later Tuesday, it said.  Full story

BEIJING, Sept. 11 (Xinhua) — Two ships of the China Marine Surveillance (CMS) have reached the waters around the Diaoyu Islands Tuesday morning to assert the country’s sovereignty.

The CMS has drafted an action plan for safeguarding the sovereignty and would take actions pending the development of the situation, the CMS sources said.  Full story

Hu states China’s stance on Japan ties, Diaoyu Islands

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia, Sept. 9 (Xinhua) — Chinese President Hu Jintao met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda here on Sunday and made clear China’s position on its relations with Japan and the Diaoyu Islands issue.

The two leaders met on the sidelines of the 20th informal economic leaders’ meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.  Full story

Top legislator reiterates China’s stance on Diaoyu Islands

TEHRAN, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) — China’s top legislator Wu Bangguo said here Monday that Japan’s decision to “buy” the Diaoyu Islands is illegal and invalid.

Wu, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, briefed Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani on the latest development concerning the Diaoyu Islands.   Full story

“Absolutely no concession” on Diaoyu Islands, says Chinese premier

BEIJING, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) — Premier Wen Jiabao said Monday the Diaoyu Islands are an inalienable part of China’s territory and China will “absolutely make no concession” on issues concerning its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Despite repeated solemn representations of China, the Japanese government announced Monday it would “purchase” part of China’s Diaoyu Islands from “private Japanese owners” and bring the islands under “state control.”   Full story

Full text of Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China

BEIJING, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) — Following is the full text of the Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China issued on Monday.

Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China

10 September 2012

Regardless of repeated strong representations of the Chinese side, the Japanese government announced on 10 September 2012 the “purchase” of the Diaoyu Island and its affiliated Nan Xiaodao and Bei Xiaodao and the implementation of the so-called nationalization” of the islands. This constitutes a gross violation of China’s sovereignty over its own territory and is highly offensive to the 1.3 billion Chinese people. It seriously tramples on historical facts and international jurisprudence. The Chinese government and people express firm opposition to and strong protest against the Japanese move.  Full story

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China, Russia sound alarm on world economy at APEC summit

By Timothy Heritage

(Reuters) – China and Russia sounded the alarm about the state of the global economy and urged Asian-Pacific countries at a summit on Saturday to protect themselves by forging deeper regional economic ties.

Chinese President Hu Jintao said Beijing would do all it could to strengthen the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) by rebalancing its economy, Asia’s biggest, to improve the chances of a global economic recovery.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said trade barriers must be smashed down as he opened the APEC summit which he is hosting on a small island linked to the Pacific port of Vladivostok by a spectacular new bridge that symbolizes Moscow’s pivotal turn to Asia away from debt-stricken Europe.

“It’s important to build bridges, not walls. We must continue striving for greater integration,” Putin told the APEC leaders, seated at a round table in a room with a view of the $1 billion cable-stayed bridge, the largest of its kind.

“The global economic recovery is faltering. We can overcome the negative trends only by increasing the volume of trade in goods and services and enhancing the flow of capital.”

Hu told business leaders before the summit the world economy was being hampered by “destabilizing factors and uncertainties” and the crisis that hit in 2008-09 was far from over. China would play its role, he said, in strengthening the recovery.

“We will work to maintain the balance between keeping steady and robust growth, adjusting the economic structure and managing inflation expectations. We will boost domestic demand and maintain steady and robust growth as well as basic price stability,” he said.

Hu spelled out plans for China, whose economic growth has slowed as Europe’s debt crisis worsened, to pump $157 billion into infrastructure investment in agriculture, energy, railways and roads.

Hu steps down as China’s leader in the autumn after a Communist Party congress, but he promised continuity and stability for the economy.

Putin, who has just begun a new six-year term as president, said on Friday Russia would be a stable energy supplier and a gateway to Europe for Asian countries, and also pledged to develop his country’s transport network.


The relative strength of China’s economy, by far the largest in Asia and second in the world to the United States, is key to Russia’s decision to look eastwards as it seeks to develop its economy and Europe battles economic problems.

APEC, which includes the United States, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Canada, groups countries around the Pacific Rim which account for 40 percent of the world’s population, 54 percent of its economic output and 44 percent of trade.

APEC members are broadly showing relatively strong growth, but boosting trade and growth is vital for the group as it tries to remove the trade barriers that hinder investment.

The European Union has been at odds with both China and Russia over trade practices it regards as limiting free competition. Cooperation in APEC is also hindered by territorial and other disputes among some of the members.

Putin, 59, limped slightly as he greeted leaders at the summit. Aides said he had merely pulled a muscle. Underlining Putin’s good health, a spokesman said he had a “very active lifestyle.”

Discussions at the two-day meeting will focus on food security and trade liberalization. An agreement was reached before the summit to slash import duties on technologies that can promote economic growth without endangering the environment.

Breakthroughs are not expected on other trade issues at the meeting, which U.S. President Barack Obama is missing. He has been attending the Democratic Party convention and Washington is being represented by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

U.S. officials say Clinton’s trip is partly intended to assess Russia’s push to expand engagement in Asia, which parallels Washington’s own turn towards the Asia-Pacific region.

Also missing the summit was Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Putin said she had dropped out because her father had died.

(Additional reporting by Gleb Bryanski, Andrew Quinn, Katya Golubkova, Douglas Busvine, Denis Pinchuk and Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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Hong Kong 15th aniversary on return to China

 Maintaining a China identity

Hong Kong SAR chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying takes over the reins of government tomorrow and throws a challenge to the city to really call China its home.

TOMORROW, the people of Hong Kong and the mainland Chinese will celebrate the 15th anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to China.

Days ahead of the momentous celebration that will be attended by Chinese President Hu Jintao and featuring fireworks, military parade and parachute jumps, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying threw a challenge to the city to really call China its home.

During an interview with the Chinese media late last month, Leung said that since the handover in 1997, the city dwellers had developed a sense of belonging with their motherland but it would take a little longer before remnants of the British influence disappear entirely.

New leader: Leung speaking to a group of low-income families at the rooftop of an old residential building in Sham Shui Po District, Hong Kong, in this file photo.

“There are two meanings of the handover. First, Hong Kong was legally returned to China and the Chinese government retained the administrative power of Hong Kong by establishing the HKSAR and passing the Basic Law for the ‘one country, two systems’ and ‘Hong Kong run by Hong Kong people’ model,” the People’s Daily quoted Leung.

“On the other hand, Hong Kong was under British control for 100 years. More needs to be done to rid that influence on people.”

For instance, he said, some Hong Kong people would still say that they were “leaving for China” instead of “going to the mainland”.

He cited an example where a Hong Kong saleswoman told her friend on the mainland that she had visited Beijing on her friend’s National Day, instead of referring to the celebration as hers, too.

“These people may not have any political stance when they speak that way. This is probably due to decades of British rule. We will keep on educating our people so that they can better understand the country. But we cannot rush it; it has to be done step by step,” he said.

Leung will begin his tenure as the new boss of the city for a five-year term starting tomorrow, along with his government line-up of Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, John Tsang and 18 others.

Besides working on better interaction between Hong Kong and mainland Chinese people, the new HKSAR government has to tackle social problems such as the influx of mainlanders which puts a strain on the city’s healthcare and housing resources.

On the economy, Hong Kong will have to work around the central government’s supporting policies to maintain its competitiveness and improve its people’s livelihood.

In its editorial, the Hong Kong-based Sing Pao daily said the people of Hong Kong had mixed emotions and experienced ups and downs in the last 15 years, but the city was heading in the right direction under the “one country, two systems” policy.

“It was unavoidable that we had to ‘cross the river by touching the stones’. In the past 15 years, we have seen numerous conflict of opinions, political hostility and delayed reforms. No matter how many protests and demonstrations were staged, the majority of residents remain united in steering this boat named Hong Kong forward,” it said.

Oriental Daily hoped that Leung would “clean up the mess” left behind by his predecessors Tung Chee-hwa and Donald Tsang, and, turn around the economy and stabilise the social situation.

“During elections, Leung Chun-ying pledged to introduce a financial development unit if he was elected. Now he has walked the talk by setting up a committee headed by executive council member Laura M. Cha to form the objectives, functions and operations of the unit.

“Leung should invite financial advisers and economics experts to give their input on how to solidify Hong Kong’s status as the world financial centre and to counter future financial crises. Let us see if the Leung administration can lead Hong Kong on a new path of development,” the newspaper said.

Recently, Beijing announced a package of supporting policies such as issuing bourse-traded funds listed on both the Hong Kong and mainland stock markets, encouraging foreign investors to use the yuan for trade settlement in the city and easing restrictions on small businesses run by Hong Kong residents in the mainland.

Peng Qinghua, director of the liaison office of the central government in HKSAR, told China Daily that Beijing had played a key role in maintaining Hong Kong’s prosperity by keeping its promise of autonomy for the HKSAR government.

“The economic achievement in Hong Kong today is the result of its people’s ability to take the opportunities, and their flexibility and diligence. However, it could not have happened without the support of its motherland,” he said.

Peng hoped that the people from both sides would continue to respect their differences, improve communications and deepen cooperation in order to achieve real unity.


PLA gaining trust in HK

Shortly after being stationed in Hong Kong, Brigadier Zhang Jie said he was asked by a city official why were his soldiers “so invisible”.

PLA gaining trust in HK

Soldiers of People’s liberation Army pose for photograghs at teh Stanley barracks in Hong Kong earlier this month. Edmong Tang/China Daily

The People’s Liberation Army troops had been at the garrison for a month, following the return of Hong Kong to China on July 1, 1997, and many residents expected them to have a high-profile presence.

“I told the official that the reason we were invisible was because we only leave the base when necessary, to not disturb residents,” Zhang said ahead of the 15th anniversary of the handover.

This is a policy that stayed unchanged for 15 years.

The garrison, which has roughly 8,000 troops spread over battalions of infantry, engineers, airborne staff and navy personnel, is housed in several bases across the special administrative region.

Due to some differences between the mainland and Hong Kong, which the United Kingdom controlled for more than a century, and the “one country, two systems” policy, PLA troops stationed adhere to stricter rules than those in other parts of China.

“We have to be committed to strict discipline to gain the trust of Hong Kong citizens,” said Zhang, who heads the garrison’s infantry division.

Liang Yuejia, deputy director of the garrison’s political department, explained that there was a lot of suspicion among residents at first that soldiers would get involved in local affairs, such as reacting to street protests.

“But we didn’t. Unless the protesters illegally entered our barracks or threatened our lives, we did not resort to contacting the police,” he said, adding that they respected such activities according to local regulations.

Even when anti-communist literature was thrown over the walls or staff received harassing calls from political groups, officials said they did not react.

That policy of noninterference has over the years helped the garrison gain a good image among residents.

A poll of 1,006 people by the University of Hong Kong last year found that only about 2 percent of those polled had a negative opinion about the garrison.

“Developing a good relationship with citizens has been the key,” said Lieutenant General Zhang Shibo, commander of the garrison. “I think that mission has been accomplished.”

Major Wu Qiong, a battalion commander with the garrison’s communication station, added: “Before 2000, Hong Kong citizens usually kept their distance. But after years of interaction, many now often say hello. I guess that’s because they are aware of our decent style of working and strict discipline.”

Increasing openness

Compared with the “invisibility” of the early years, the garrison has greatly increased its openness to the outside world in recent years.

Besides regular training and exercises for army personnel, officials have also been promoting links between Hong Kong and the mainland through various activities, said Lieutenant General Zhang Shibo.

The troops have actively participated in public activities, such as planting more than 50,000 trees, donating 2.5 million milliliters of blood and helping more than 2,600 elderly people and children in care homes.

The garrison has also opened its barracks 23 times to visitors, receiving around 469,000 local people, and held summer camps for children.

The last open day, on May 1, attracted 37,000 visitors, far more than the 28,000 expected and extra free admission tickets had to be distributed. Some people waited in line overnight to get a ticket.

During the open days, guests can view the military facilities and watch soldiers perform combat skills and motorcycling stunts, including drills by the first female special forces of the PLA army.

“One of the reasons why we are gaining increasing recognition in Hong Kong is that the openness of the barracks provides local people with an opportunity to know more about us, as well as a platform for us to serve them,” said Lieutenant General Wang Zengbo, political commissar of the garrison.

The activities organized by the garrison also present the PLA, the Communist Party of China and the mainland to Hong Kong residents in a proper way, Wang said. “Their national identity and patriotism have greatly increased,” he said.

The garrison has organized seven military summer camps for around 1,200 local teenagers, six exchange activities with 1,600 students from 12 local universities and a military camp for college students. The troops also visited the University of Hong Kong for the first time in 2011 and talked with students.

A total of 215 teenagers participated in the military summer camp in 2011, and the number is expected to reach 260 this year.

“Despite the increase, every school can only send one student, while dozens of others actually want to come, so we’ll continue enlarging the camp’s scale in future,” said Wang.

Tung Chee-hwa, former chief executive of Hong Kong, said the camps influence many families and hundreds of people even though there are only about 200 participants every year, and they also would influence the participants’ whole life even they only last for 15 days.

In 2010, Hong Kong saw an upsurge of young people wanting to enlist in the military. Most of the 4,000 local young people who signed up for enlisting participated in the garrison’s exchange activities and military camps.

The summaries written by military camp participants revealed that the 15-day interaction with the garrison provided them with a chance to learn more about the troops, socialism, the Communist Party of China, as well as the strength of the PLA and China, Wang said.

Boosting defenses

With the garrison enjoying a good image in Hong Kong, Zhang Shibo said the focus has shifted from public relations to bolstering military defense.

The mission of the garrison is mainly to exercise China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong, safeguard social stability and provide disaster relief and defense campaigns. However, military training is also a priority.

“Since 2007, we have invested millions to upgrade our army’s equipment, navy and air force,” said the garrison’s commander.

Based on Hong Kong’s strategic features, the PLA garrison added a special forces unit, an armored battalion and a chemical defense battalion. It has also been equipped with reconnaissance planes, armed helicopters and air defense missiles.

Soldiers receive regular training. More than 20 drills were held in Hong Kong over the past 15 years.

“We aim to test our basic military strength, commanding and organizing capabilities through joint drills,” Zhang Shibo said.

The infantry brigade, the garrison’s pillar force, has ranked at the top for three years in the military competitions in the adjacent PLA Guangzhou Military Area Command, which has the administrative control of the garrison.

Speaking of the possible challenges the garrison faces, Brigadier Zhang Jie said the garrison “needs to be prepared to tackle possible regional conflicts at all times”.

Contact the writer at

Yu Daimin in Hong Kong contributed to this story.

Prepare for combat, China’s Hu urges navy!

Chinese President Hu Jintao Tuesday urged the navy to prepare for military combat amid growing regional tensions over maritime disputes and a US campaign to assert itself as a Pacific power.

The navy should “accelerate its transformation and modernisation in a sturdy way, and make extended preparations for military combat in order to make greater contributions to safeguard national security,” he said.

Addressing the powerful Central Military Commission, Hu said: “Our work must closely encircle the main theme of national defence and military building.”

His remarks, which were posted on a statement on a government website, come amid growing US and regional concerns over China’s naval ambitions, particularly in the South China Sea.

Chinese President Hu Jintao on Tuesday urged the navy to prepare for military combat, amid growing regional tensions over maritime disputes and a US campaign to assert itself as a Pacific power.

The navy should “accelerate its transformation and modernisation in a sturdy way, and make extended preparations for military combat in order to make greater contributions to safeguard national security,” he said.

Addressing the powerful Central Military Commission, Hu said: “Our work must closely encircle the main theme of national defence and military building.”

His comments, which were posted in a statement on a government website, come as the United States and Beijing’s neighbours have expressed concerns over its naval ambitions, particularly in the South China Sea.

Several Asian nations have competing claims over parts of the South China Sea, believed to encompass huge oil and gas reserves, while China claims it all. One-third of global seaborne trade passes through the region.

Vietnam and the Philippines have accused Chinese forces of increasing aggression there.

In a translation of Hu’s comments, the official Xinhua news agency quoted the president as saying China’s navy should “make extended preparations for warfare.”

The Pentagon however downplayed Hu’s speech, saying that Beijing had the right to develop its military, although it should do so transparently.

“They have a right to develop military capabilities and to plan, just as we do,” said Pentagon spokesman George Little, but he added, “We have repeatedly called for transparency from the Chinese and that’s part of the relationship we’re continuing to build with the Chinese military.”

“Nobody’s looking for a scrap here,” insisted another spokesman, Admiral John Kirby. “Certainly we wouldn’t begrudge any other nation the opportunity, the right to develop naval forces to be ready.

“Our naval forces are ready and they’ll stay ready.”

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said: “We want to see stronger military-to-military ties with China and we want to see greater transparency. That helps answer questions we might have about Chinese intentions.”

Hu’s announcement comes in the wake of trips to Asia by several senior US officials, including President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

US undersecretary of defence Michelle Flournoy is due to meet in Beijing with her Chinese counterparts on Wednesday for military-to-military talks.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao last month warned against interference by “external forces” in regional territorial disputes including those in the South China Sea.

And China said late last month it would conduct naval exercises in the Pacific Ocean, after Obama, who has dubbed himself America’s first Pacific president, said the US would deploy up to 2,500 Marines to Australia.

China’s People’s Liberation Army, the largest military in the world, is primarily a land force, but its navy is playing an increasingly important role as Beijing grows more assertive about its territorial claims.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon warned that Beijing was increasingly focused on its naval power and had invested in high-tech weaponry that would extend its reach in the Pacific and beyond.

China’s first aircraft carrier began its second sea trial last week after undergoing refurbishments and testing, the government said.

The 300-metre (990-foot) ship, a refitted former Soviet carrier, underwent five days of trials in August that sparked international concern about China’s widening naval reach.

Beijing only confirmed this year that it was revamping the old Soviet ship and has repeatedly insisted that the carrier poses no threat to its neighbours and will be used mainly for training and research purposes.

But the August sea trials were met with concern from regional powers including Japan and the United States, which called on Beijing to explain why it needs an aircraft carrier.

China, which publicly announced around 50 separate naval exercises in the seas off its coast over the past two years — usually after the event — says its military is only focused on defending the country’s territory.


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