South Korea declares war on MERS


A family of tourists wearing face masks stand on a street in the popular Myeongdong shopping area in Seoul, on June 4, 2015 (AFP Photo/Ed Jones)

Seoul (AFP) – South Korea reported on Friday a fourth death from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), as an infected doctor fuelled fears of a fresh surge in cases and prompted Seoul’s mayor to declare “war” on the virus. Five new cases overnight took the number of infected people to 41 in what has become the largest MERS outbreak outside Saudi Arabia, with close to 2,000 people in quarantine or under observation. The latest fatality was a 76-year-old male patient who died Thursday after testing positive for the virus on May 21.

Criticised for its lack of transparency in addressing the health scare, the Health Ministry finally confirmed the name of the hospital where the first patient to be diagnosed with MERS was treated.
The ministry said anyone who had visited the hospital in Pyeongtaek, about 65 kilometres (40 miles) south of Seoul, between May 15-29 should report to a clinic for screening.

The government had initially declined to name any hospitals treating cases of MERS, for which there is no vaccine or cure, arguing it could cause them unfair commercial losses.

– Infected doctor fuels fears –

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Of particular concern was the positive test of a doctor at a major Seoul hospital who was understood to have taken part in public meetings attended by up to 1,500 people while infectious.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-Soon criticised the government for not sharing information about the doctor’s movements, and said his administration would take the lead in ensuring public safety.

“From now on, Seoul city is embarking on a war against MERS. We will take swift and stern measures… to protect the lives and safety of our citizens,” Park told reporters Friday.

Health Minister Moon Hyong-Pyo apologised for the public anxiety caused by the outbreak, but rejected Park’s criticisms, saying the mayor was encouraging “mistrust and misunderstanding”.

The government had been handling the doctor’s case carefully to avoid public panic, Moon added. More than 1,000 schools, from kindergartens to colleges, have temporarily shut down across the country, while the government’s MERS hotline has been taking thousands of calls a day.

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According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) MERS has now infected 1,179 people globally, with 442 deaths. More than 20 countries have been affected, with most cases in Saudi Arabia.

The virus is considered a deadlier but less infectious cousin of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed hundreds of people when it appeared in Asia in 2003.

– Possible mutation? –

The WHO has said it expects more infections in South Korea, while stressing there was currently “no evidence of sustained transmission in the community”.

A health ministry statement said a WHO team would visit next week, citing concerns that the virus has been showing a “slightly different” pattern from the one detected in Middle East.

“We have yet to determine whether there has been any mutation,” said Choi Bo-Yul, the head of a civilian task force set up to help with the outbreak.

Among the recent infections was an Korean Air Force chief master sergeant, who represented the first MERS case among members of the military.

The airman is serving at the air base in Osan, south of Seoul, which also hosts the US 51st Fighter Wing.

In a message to base personnel, the fighter unit’s chief medical officer, Colonel Krystal Murphy, said around 100 people who had been in contact with the infected man had been asked to remain at home.

“We recommend everyone exercise caution and use good hygiene practices to prevent any further spread,” Myers said. A large number of public events have been cancelled and organisers of the World Student Games in the southwestern city of Gwangju next month admitted they were “very anxious.”

“No country has cancelled so far, but obviously we’re keeping a close eye on what is a worrying situation and hope it will come under control soon,” an official with the Universiade’s organising committee told AFP.

China committed to upholding peace, stability in S. China Sea island-building, rejects US criticism to isolate China in Asia


Admiral Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of staff of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) addresses the fourth plenary session of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, May 31, 2015. Sun Jianguo elaborated on China’s foreign and defense policies. (Xinhua/Bao Xuelin)

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China must insist on island-building

During the just-concluded Shangri-La Dialogue, military representatives from China and the US did not engage in the bitter brawling predicted by the media. Both sides have reaffirmed their own stance. US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter asked all claimants, especially China, to cease island-building in the South China Sea, and by cautiously skirting around the question of how the US will respond if China continues its construction activities, Carter didn’t issue further threats against China.

But the US is still able to launch more provocations in this region, perhaps by sending surveillance planes and warships to the periphery of 12 nautical miles from China-controlled islands.

No matter how disturbing the US can be, China must not stop its construction, which is in line with China’s sovereign integrity. If Beijing backs off due to Washington’s threats and some Western countries’ protests, this will create a horrific precedent, which will embolden US-led forces to set tougher positions against China. China should try its best to inject prosperity into the South China Sea, promoting regional economic development and enhancing its disaster resistance ability. Only in this way will the ongoing quarrels calm down.

If China can play its cards right, these expanded islands will not only prevent the South China Sea situation from becoming intensified, but initiate a new constructive thinking for regional development. China’s construction activities will offer an opportunity to break the vicious circle that has been haunting the South China Sea for decades.

These expanded islands will allow China to acquire more initiative to carry out its South China Sea policies. For now, it is China that values regional peace more than any other state, because the stability of the South China Sea is a prerequisite for China to make use of this important period of strategic opportunities.

As of now, military confrontation is still the last choice for all stakeholders in the South China Sea. However, different desires and expectations have caused the complexity in the South China Sea issues. When China can set a firm foothold in the area, it will bring along more elements that can drive peace and stability.

China needs to make broad plans including countermeasures against more US intrusions. Beijing should be fully prepared, both mentally and physically, for possible military conflicts with the US. China needs to clearly express its unwillingness as well as fearlessness to fight. The more prepared China can be, the lower the possibility of military conflict.

This round of contest in the South China Sea is more like a strategic dialogue, through which China and the US can come up with a set of models and principles under which they can show mutual respect around China’s offshore areas.

If China insists on its island construction, publicizes its peaceful purposes, and avoids making these expanded islands a focal point of Sino-US military competition, we believe it will be eventually accepted by the widest number of parties concerned. – Global Times

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Missing flight MH370 anniversary, plane hijacked by conspiracy theories!


A year on, lack of hard facts, initial confusion and overnight ‘experts’ add to fog of uncertainty

KUALA LUMPUR: It’s been exactly a year since Malaysia Airlines’ Flight MH370 disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and despite the most extensive search in aviation history, the fate of the Boeing 777 aircraft and the 239 people on board remains a mystery.

While the search led by Australia in the depths of the Indian Ocean continues, how and why a sophisticated aircraft carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew vanished without a trace has piqued the curiosity of many.

The authorities and aviation experts remain baffled. They believe only the plane’s cockpit voice and flight data recorders can shed light on why the plane was diverted from its original path and headed south across the vast Indian Ocean.

The lack of hard facts and the initial confusion when the plane was declared missing gave rise to a flood of anecdotal “evidence” and a crop of overnight aviation “experts” basking in their two minutes of fame.

Numerous conspiracy theories over the fate of flight MH370 have been appearing ever since, with none providing a credible clue on what could have really transpired.

In the run up to the first anniversary of MH370′s disappearance, conspiracy theorists went into overdrive.

The latest was Jeff Wise, a science journalist and author, who claimed that the plane was hijacked on the behest of Russian President Vladimir Putin and flown to a remote landing strip in Kazakhstan.

But why would Putin want to hijack a Malaysian plane in the first place?

On March 3, a senior Boeing 777 pilot claimed that flight MH370 was taken on an emotional last farewell ride over the pilot’s home island of Penang, before the pilot ditched the plane into the ocean.

Captain Simon Hardy who came up with this theory, published in Flight International magazine, is based on the initial suspicion that the MH370′s Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah could have turned rogue and deliberately flown the plane off course.

But there is nothing to substantiate this claim.

In December 2014, a former French airline boss Marc Dugain in a six page article in Paris Match claimed that the US might have shot down flight MH370 as it approached the US military base on the Diego Garcia atoll in the western Indian Ocean, fearing a 9/11 style attack on the base.

The US military is said to have covered up the incident.

Immediately, the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur stated that there was no indication that flight MH370 had flown near the US military facility in the first place.

Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamed, too, had his own idea: just two months after the plane disappeared, he wrote in his blog that “someone” must have remotely seized control of the aircraft from the pilots.

He based his argument on a supposed patent received by Boeing in 2006 for an “anti-terrorism auto-land system” that, once activated, removed all control from the pilots to return a commercial airliner to a pre-determined landing location. But Dr Mahathir failed to mention who that “someone” could be behind the plot. So back to square one.

Everything on board the plane, including its cargo and passengers, came under suspicion right from the onset.

Conspiracy theorists claimed that the plane was carrying dangerous cargo that caused a fire on board or crippled the plane’s operating systems.

Among the items in the cargo manifest were highly flammable lithium ion batteries. Did the batteries have anything to do with the plane’s fate like the fire in South African Airways’ Flight 295 in 1987?

Other conspiracy theorists focussed on the 20 employees of Freestyle, a Texas based semiconductor manufacturing company; the equipment they were carrying had radar-blocking capabilities developed by the company, thus crippling the plane’s systems, these theorists claimed.

Fingers were also pointed at two Iranians on the passenger list who boarded the plane with forged travel documents. Could they have been terrorists who hijacked the plane to an unknown destination or sabotaged the plane?

But Interpol revealed that the pair had no links with any terrorist groups and were on their way to seek asylum in Europe.

And of course there were the out-of-this-world conspiracy theories. The plane was hijacked by aliens. A Malaysian bomoh claimed the plane was hijacked by elves and was permanently suspended in the air.

Two months after the plane disappeared, Indian film director Rupesh Paul put up a trailer for a film about MH370 at the Cannes Film Festival, to be called “The Vanishing Act: The Untold Story of the Missing Malaysian Plane”.

CNN, which had given the MH370 story its full wall-to-wall treatment, described it tellingly: “If the Cannes Film Festival had an award for most squirm-inducing production, it would surely go to the producers of a new thriller telling the “real” story of the still-missing Malaysian Airlines jet.”

National Geographic turned out a documentary that was more cautious in its approach visualising all possibilities including a catastrophic failure of aircraft systems or structure. But there are not definitive answers.

The confusion in the first days of the aircraft’s disappearance led to parallels with conspiracy theories about the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy, mainly that the government had covered up crucial information in the aftermath of the incident.

LOOKING BACK: THE FINAL MOMENTS OF MH370

* Malaysia Airlines’ Flight MH370 departs from Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang at 12.41 am to Beijing with 227 passengers and 12 crew. It was a code sharing flight with China Southern Airlines.

At the helm of the Boeing 777-200 ER was veteran pilot Capt Zaharie Ahmad Shah.

The passengers include 153 Chinese nationals, 38 Malaysians, 12 Indonesians, six Australians, three French, four Americans, two from Ukraine, New Zealand and Canada respectively and one each from Russia, Taiwan, Italy, the Netherlands and Austria.

Less than one hour into the flight, as the plane approached the Igari Waypoint, in South China Sea, where it was to be handed over to the Ho Chi Minh City air traffic control, it disappeared from the radar screen.

“Good night Malaysian three seven zero” were the last words spoken from the cockpit. No distress signal received.

Subesequently the plane was tracked by Malaysian military radar as it deviated from its planned flight path and crossed the Malay Peninsula and headed towards the Andaman Sea.

Communications pings between the aircraft and Inmarsat’s satellite network concluded that the flight continued until 8:19 am towards southern Indian Ocean. However, the precise location could not be determined.

A major multinational search was mounted without success. Australia leads the second phase of the search with the cost mounting.

– BERNAMA/FMT

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“Super China” Boom in South Korea


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Super China_S KoreaA screen capture of South Korean documentary Super China. [Photo/Agencies]

The seven-episode documentary, Super China, won hearts and ratings over 10 percent in South Korea and is praised as the “encyclopedia” for South Koreans to know China.

The special series, which aired from Jan 15 to 24, introduces China as a whole, covering demographics, economics, resources, geography, military diplomacy and cultural soft power. The ratings surpassed 10% for Super China, while average ratings for a South Korean documentary stand at around 5%, according to Xinhua.

“The high ratings show how much South Korean audiences are interested in China, and that we aired the series at the right time,” producer Park Jin-hwan said.

Park, who worked as a journalist in China for many years, is among the three producers of Super China. The initial aim of production was to provide a “framework for deeper understanding on China,” Park said.

“There were many publications and programs that introduced China, but none of them was comprehensive enough, so we wanted to do a more complete documentary to help South Korean audiences learn about China’s past and presence,” Park said in fluent Chinese.

“China’s influence on the world is increasing as we speak. We have visited more than 20 countries, including the US, Argentina, Sri Lanka and Kenya, to give different perspectives on China from around the world,” said Park.

Multi-national politics and international relations are major highlights of the program. The program also includes experts who talk about their take on the future of Sino-South Korean relations. Among them aree Professor Joseph Nye of Harvard University, who introduced the concept of “Soft Power”, and political researcher John J.Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago. Views of politicians, businessmen and the public also are included.

The pubic response

According to Xinhua, many South Korean audiences think a documentary on this scale that reflects the real China is rare and regard Super China as a “encyclopedia” on understanding China.

Others believe that with China’s strengthening national power and a tighter Sino-South Korean relationship, this documentary can help South Koreans think about the future between the two nations. Some felt a sense of “crisis” after viewing, while others criticized the program as a documentary that praised China.

Across the border, Chinese audiences believe Super China is progressive, as it does not carry a tone of prejudice or contain many misunderstandings, while others think they have raised the bar too high for China. Chinese netizens believe this documentary may stir worry in South Korea.

Super China’s production team did not expect the strong feedback from Chinese audiences, as the show was aimed at South Korean viewers. Park said he is considering filming a new series to focus on the influence of China’s economics on South Korea, including the challenges and opportunities brought by China’s manufacturing and telecom industries.

( Chinaculture.org )

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Taiwan Pilot avoided bigger tragedy by ditching plane in river


Taiwan TransAsia crash

Pilot avoided bigger tragedy by ditching plane in river

Liao Chien-tsung(second from left), was identified as the pilot of the crashed TransAsia Airways plane. [Photo/ETTV]

TAIPEI/BEIJING, –Pilot of the crashed TransAsia Airways plane narrowly avoided hitting buildings and ditched the stalled aircraft in a river, likely averting a worse disaster, according to a report.

The pilot and co-pilot of the almost-new turboprop ATR 72-600 were among those killed, Taiwan’s aviation regulator said. TransAsia identified the pilot as 42-year-old Liao Chien-tsung.

“He really tried everything he could,” Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je said of the pilot, his voice breaking with sobs.

At least 31 people were killed when Flight GE235 lurched between buildings, clipped a taxi and an overpass with one of its wings and crashed upside down into shallow water shortly after take-off from a downtown Taipei airport on Wednesday. There were 15 known survivors and 12 more unaccounted for.

According to Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, 22 of the dead were from the Chinese mainland. Altogether 31 passengers from the Chinese mainland, including three children, were onboard Flight GE235 which was heading for Jinmen from Taipei.

The mainland passengers were on trips organized by two travel agencies from Xiamen city in Fujian province, Taiwan tourism authority confirmed.

Amateur video recorded by a car dashboard camera showed the plane nose-up as it barely cleared the buildings close to Taipei’s Songshan airport before crashing into the river.

“The pilot’s immediate reaction saved many people,” said Chris Lin, brother of one of the survivors. “I was a pilot myself and I’m quite knowledgeable about the immediate reaction needed in this kind of situation.”

Aerospace analysts said it was too early to say whether the pilots intentionally pulled the plane above the buildings, and noted that the crew may have been aiming for the river to reduce casualties.

A more conclusive picture will emerge only when authorities release details from the plane’s cockpit voice and flight data recorders, which were recovered on Wednesday.

“He’s missed the buildings but it is premature to make an analysis of what happened on this flight. We have to wait for the data from the cockpit voice recorder and flight recorder,” said aviation analyst Geoffrey Thomas, editor-in-chief of airlineratings.com.

Taiwan media reported that it appeared Liao had fought desperately to steer his stricken aircraft between apartment blocks and commercial buildings.

The head of Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration, Lin Tyh-ming, has said Liao had 4,914 flying hours under his belt and the co-pilot 6,922 hours.

The Taiwan Aviation Safety Council said it has invited accident investigators from the Chinese mainland to take part in the accident investigation.

Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman with the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, said on Thursday afternoon that the mainland civil aviation authorities will dispatch investigators.

Investigators from France, producer of the aircraft, and from Canada, producer of the engine, have also been invited.

Meanwhile, TransAsia decided on Thursday to hand out compensation of 200,000 new Taiwan dollars (about $6,356) to each injured victim (including the two in the taxi), and compensation of 1.2 million new Taiwan dollars to the family of each identified fatality.

As of present, 44 family members of the mainland victims have arrived in Taiwan.

Since the crash, Taiwan’s civil aeronautics authority has conducted safety checks on power systems of the island’s ATR-72 aircraft.

Chen Deming, president of the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, expressed his hope for more efforts in the rescue and said that a work team has been sent to Taiwan to help the aftermath.

Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou visited hospitals and expressed condolences to both mainland and Taiwan families. He urged full strength in rescue and asked administrative bureaus to carry out strict inspection into the accident.

Many Taiwanese social organizations and volunteers also expressed condolences and provided rescue materials.

According to the authority, TransAsia had already completed two flights using ATR-72 aircraft on Wednesday before the crash, with flight and maintenance reports of these flights featuring no record of malfunction.

Dispatchers on duty denied the possibility of a rushed takeoff when interviewed by investigators.

aipei Songshan Airport had canceled 11 local flights, which were all due to be served by ATR-72 aircraft, by 11:45 am on Thursday, according to the airport’s website.

A cross-Strait emergency response mechanism has been launched to deal with the accident.

According to Taipei authorities, the crashed plane had been in service since April 2014 and was subject to a routine safety check last month.

TransAsia announced on Thursday that passengers who wanted to cancel their bookings would have their usual commission fees waived.

This is not the first time that an ATR-72 aircraft has crashed in Taiwan. On July 23, 2014, TransAsia Airways flight GE222 crashed on Taiwan’s Penghu Island, killing 48 people.

TransAsia Airways, founded in 1951, was Taiwan’s first private airline, mainly focusing on short overseas flights.

In a separate development, Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office on Thursday said a planned visit by Zhang Zhijun, head of the office, to Jinmen has been delayed, as “both sides need to focus on the aftermath of the accident,” Ma said.

Zhang was originally scheduled to meet with Taiwan’s mainland affairs chief Wang Yu-chi on Feb. 7-8.

The updated date of the meeting was not revealed immediately.

Source: (Chinadaily.com.cn/Agencies/Xinhua)/Asia News Network

Relatives of plane crash victims arrive in Taiwan

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Abe’s strategy clearer after Japanese ISIS hostage crisis



The release of a video on Saturday showing a message thatHaruna Yukawa, one of the Japanese hostages captured byIslamic State (IS) militants, had been slaughtered, shocked both Japanese society and its Western allies. Official institutions in both Japan and the US consider the video is likely to be authentic.

The IS claimed last Tuesday it had abducted two Japanese and gave the Japanese government 72 hours to pay $200 million in ransom for the captives. The Abe administration was put in a conundrum. In front of requests from the victims’ families to save the hostages, the Japanese government vowed it would never give in to terrorism on one hand, on the other, it displayed a high-profile stance of striving to free the hostages. But it’s believed that the Abe administration would be unlikely to carry out a dramatic rescue, which has already decided the fate of the hostages.

The brutality of the IS has become well-known. They kill hostages in a cold-blooded manner. Now that Japan has become a victim of global terrorism, Tokyo may reassess the challenges it faces. In the past few years, Japanese rightists portrayed China as Japan’s major threat, despite the fact that China has never infringed upon Japan over the past century. It’s instead Japan that invaded China and persecuted Chinese people again and again.

The death of the hostage also offers a new excuse for Abe to lift the ban on collective self-defense. Abe will face fewer hurdles now if he decides to cooperate with the US strategic deployment and strengthen Japan’s military activities in the Middle East and its security deployment in East Asia.

Some claimed that Abe is more concerned about promoting rightist policies than rescuing hostages. For the good of peace in East Asia and the Japanese public, we hope such analysis is just speculative. Japan is not capable of playing an active role in the Middle East. East Asian countries are not supposed to be key targets of the atrocious IS. The Japanese hostage case sends a warning signal.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the US has spent great efforts in ensuring its domestic security. However, US allies such as European countries and Japan have been constantly targeted by terrorism. It’s worthwhile studying the underlying reasons.

The attack on Charlie Hebdo seemingly unveiled the conflicts between the whole of European society and the Muslim community, but it was striking to see how the US tries to remain neutral over the issue.

Having a geopolitical advantage, Japan should be a country without enemies. However, the country is plagued with a terrible mess in its national strategy. It misperceives China as an imaginary enemy. Tokyo’s ultimate goal is said to be getting rid of US control, however, it is forced to defer to the US due to its confrontation with China. The killing of the Japanese hostage is more or less the price that Japan has paid for its support to Washington.

We strongly condemn the brutal killing by the IS. In the meantime, we hope Japanese public opinion will take a clear-cut attitude against any terrorist attack launched on China. – Global Times

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Xiangshan Defence Forum: Regional military chiefs hail Beijing’s security proposal


Photo taken on Nov. 21, 2014 shows the scene of the plenary meeting of the 5th Xiangshan Forum in Beijing, capital of China. The two-day Xiangshan Forum focuses on security in the Asia-Pacific region. The biennial event, organized by China Society of Military Sciences, has been held since 2006. It will be held annually starting this year. (Xinhua/Shen Dongdong) 

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 Regional military chiefs hail Beijing’s security proposal
Xiangshan Defence Forum_DM speaks
Chinese military academic delegate Wang Yisheng talks to British delegate John Kingwell (center) and Observer Simon Levey during the Xiangshan Forum attended by senior officials and academics from Central Asia and the Asia-Pacific region in Beijing on Friday. PETAR KUJUNDZIC / REUTERS

At a glance
• Xiangshan Forum, first held in 2006, and initially staged every two years. Upgraded to an annual event this year.

• About 300 delegates from 47 countries and four international organizations attending this year.

• This year’s theme is “Cooperation and Win-Win Build an Asian Community of Common Destiny”.

• Held from Thursday to Saturday, the forum discusses regional and maritime security and anti-terrorism cooperation.

China proposed on Friday that disputes in the Asia-Pacific region be tackled by an efficient crisis management and control mechanisms.

The proposal, put forward at a major defense policy forum in Beijing, won widespread acclaim from military chiefs and leading defense specialists in the region.

They said a liaison system has yet to be established to help the economically dynamic region tackle looming geopolitical concerns, and the proposal will help to resolve this.

In an address to the fifth Xiangshan Forum, State Councilor and Minister of National Defense Chang Wanquan said that China held 2,000 talks or meetings last year with neighbors on border issues.

China seeks to further enhance dispute management procedures, boost defense cooperation and “strengthen the regional security architecture”, Chang said in a three-point proposal.

Singapore’s Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen endorsed Chang’s proposal and underscored the need to build an Asian security framework to set up meetings and cool any potential tension.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein also backed Chang’s proposal.

Yin Zhuo, director of the PLA navy’s Expert Consultation Committee, said Asia-Pacific is “the only region in the world that still suffers
from the wounds of the Cold War”, and a security mechanism, like that established in Europe, has yet to be set up.

The forum provides a platform that “transcends different ideologies and involves all regional stakeholders”, Yin added.

Some Western analysts have speculated that the China-led forum was upgraded from an event held every two years to an annual one earlier this year to steal the thunder from the Shangri-La Dialogue held in Singapore.

Singaporean Defense Minister Ng told Friday’s plenary session that more opportunities for dialogue should be given to high-ranking military
officials in the region, and meetings such as the Xiangshan Forum help to keep areas of tension from spiraling out of control.

Zhang Tuosheng, director of the Department of Research at the China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies, said China is a major player in the region, and “such platforms do not conflict with each other because they are working in concert to shape a safer region”.

Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said changing mindsets is important, adding that, “It may take quite a long time to shape a strong and popular belief of win-win cooperation.”

Chang dismissed any connection between China’s “justified” defense budget growth and allegations of “growing assertiveness” by China.

Military modernization “serves China’s practical need to secure its own borders” Chang said.

He told the forum, “To defend our own security is a most direct contribution to security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Andrei Kokoshin, director of the Institute for International Security Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences and former secretary of the Russian Security Council, said the modernization of the People’s Liberation Army is playing a positive role in boosting regional security and stability.

By Zhangyunbi China Daily, News Network

 

 Chinese DM addresses Fifth Xiangshan Forum

Gen. Chang Wanquan, state councilor and minister of national defense of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), is delivering a speech on the topic of China’s armed forces and Asia-Pacific security at the Fifth Xiangshan Forum in Beijing on the morning of November 21, 2014. (Chinamil.com.cn/Sun Xiaoxu)
Keynote Speech at the Fifth Xiangshan Forum
by General Chang Wanquan, State Councilor and Minister of National Defense, 21st November 21, 2014

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, good morning! I am very glad to meet all of you here at Xiangshan. Let me begin by welcoming you all to the Fifth Xiangshan Forum on behalf of China’s Ministry of National Defense and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). I wish to take this opportunity to share with you my views on this topic—China’s armed
forces and Asia-Pacific security.

The remarkable growth of China’s comprehensive national power, and the continued progress in national defense modernization, have become a focus of international attention in recent years. First of all, I would like to explain, from both historical and contemporary perspectives, why China has accelerated the modernization drive of its national defense and armed forces.

First, China has learned a bitter lesson from its wretched modern history. The Chinese civilization is one of the oldest in the world. As we
entered the modern era, however, Chinese people suffered grievously in a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society because of the corruption and incompetence of their feudal rulers, coupled with unrelenting aggressions of foreign powers. Our people did not become masters of their own destiny until a century later, after a protracted struggle. When it comes to national sovereignty and security, the Chinese give great credence to the adage, “We should not rely on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him.” Therefore, China is firmly determined to promote the modernization of its national defense and armed forces and effectively safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests.

Second, military modernization serves China’s practical need to secure its own territory. China has a vast territory and a large population. Its land borders,
mainland and island coastlines are very long indeed. In particular, China has not yet fully realized national reunification. These are all factors which place the Chinese military under heavy pressure in securing the country and its border areas. There is therefore a pressing need for China to strengthen its national defense and armed forces. It should also be noted that to defend our own security is a most direct contribution to the security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

Third, China has to adapt to the revolution in military affairs. As the revolution in military affairs gains momentum worldwide, every country is dedicating efforts to modernizing its armed forces or conducting various degrees of military reforms. At present, the Chinese military has yet to become fully mechanized and its application of information technology is still at an early stage. It lags far behind those advanced military forces elsewhere in the world. A decision to strengthen the reform of China’s national defense and armed forces was adopted at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. Mindful of the goal of building a strong military, we are now exerting ourselves to develop a system of modern military force with Chinese characteristics. This is a sure choice that China has made in keeping with the times.

Fourth, military modernization serves the overall interests of China’s reform, opening up and development. China initiated the historic process of reform and opening up in the late 1970s. The Chinese military, committed to serving the larger goals of reform and development, has made a unique contribution to China’s economic takeoff. Since the beginning of the new century, China’s armed forces have benefited from the country’s economic growth and stepped up their efforts to pursue modernization. The move is mainly intended to ensure the balanced development of national defense and the economy, and provide a more effective safeguard to China’s economic and social development as well as its expanding overseas interests. It should be noted that China has not changed the basic state policy of taking economic development as the central task. Its military growth has always been kept at a reasonable level.

Fifth, China is under an obligation to work together with other countries to cope with non-traditional security threats.
In recent years, the threats of terrorism, separatism and extremism have mounted, in addition to frequent and major natural disasters and new challenges to the security of sea lines of communication. Such non-traditional security issues have become the common concern of all countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Against this backdrop, we have attached greater importance to the employment of armed forces in peacetime. It has shouldered increasing international obligations in areas such as UN peacekeeping, international anti-terrorism, commercial vessel protection, international disaster relief, and humanitarian assistance. Accelerating the modernization of national defense and armed forces will also enable China to come up with a better response to the various security challenges in collaboration with other countries and live up to its role as a responsible major country.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, the world today is undergoing major developments, changes and adjustments. The global trends toward multipolarity and economic globalization are deepening. Cultural diversity is increasing, and an information-based society is fast emerging. The security landscape in the Asia-Pacific region is largely stable. As they depend on each other for security and development, countries in the region have formed a community of common destiny in which they will prosper or decline together.

Last May, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward an Asian security concept that calls for common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. While expressing hope that Asian countries advance common security in the spirit of inclusiveness and cooperation, he welcomed the participation of other countries concerned. The concept offered a new vision for Asia-Pacific countries to cope jointly with security challenges. The Chinese military will uphold this concept as a participant and promoter of international security cooperation. It is willing to develop an approach to Asian security alongside the armed forces of other countries that features joint efforts, shared benefits
and win-win results.

First, for the sake of common security, China has dealt with sensitive disputes in an appropriate fashion. It is to be expected that disputes will arise between nations. The key is to strengthen management and effectively prevent and resolve crises. Along its land borders, the Chinese military has set up 64 border defense force meeting venues, where in 2013 alone more than 2,000 meetings were held with neighboring countries. China and India have jointly implemented their Border Defense Cooperation Agreement to maintain border peace and stability. As far as naval cooperation is concerned, the Chinese Navy has conducted 16 joint patrols in the Beibu Gulf with the Vietnamese Navy. China is also exploring the possibility of opening a defense hotline with the ASEAN countries. Only recently, China’s Ministry of National Defense and the U.S. Department of Defense signed two memorandums of understanding on Notification of Major Military Activities Confidence-building Measures Mechanism and The Rules of Behavior for Safety of Air and Maritime Encounters. With these practical moves and more, we have contributed to regional peace and stability and done our utmost to create a positive environment for the development of all countries in the region.

Second, China has engaged in regional security dialogue to promote cooperative security. We are committed to candid and in-depth talks with other parties in a bid to expand the common ground for Asia-Pacific defense and security cooperation. To date, China has established defense and security consultation and dialogue mechanisms with 26 countries. In recent years, China has held more than 80 joint military exercises and training sessions focusing on areas such as anti-terrorism and disaster relief with more than 50 countries. China’s defense authorities and armed forces have taken an active part in regional multilateral security cooperation. They have played an important role in multilateral security mechanisms such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the ASEAN Regional Forum and the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus. This Xiangshan Forum where we are gathered is an example of the efforts of the Chinese military to promote security dialogue and cooperation.

Third, China has been active in providing public security goods in pursuit of comprehensive security. As security challenges become increasingly interconnected, transnational and comprehensive, there has been a rising demand for public goods in the global security filed. Since 2002, the Chinese military has carried out 39 international emergency humanitarian assistance operations. It has shipped more than 1.3 billion yuan ($212 million) in aid materials to 30 disaster-ridden countries. Since the end of 2008, China has dispatched 18 naval task forces to the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia. These have provided an escort to almost 6,000 Chinese and foreign ships. China has contributed more peacekeeping troops than any other permanent member of the UN Security Council – a total of more than 27,000. Currently, 2, 027 Chinese peacekeepers are working with nine UN peacekeeping missions. In order to cope with the Ebola outbreaks in West Africa, the Chinese military has sent almost 300 doctors and nurses to epidemic-affected areas. It has built an Ebola holding-center in Sierra Leone and will soon complete the construction of a 100-bed Ebola treatment center in Liberia. This represents a humble contribution to the fight against the deadly virus.

Fourth, China has reinforced results-oriented defense cooperation to boost sustainable security. The armed forces constitute the cornerstone of national security. Whether a country is secure and whether its security is sustainable hinge on its ability to protect itself. The Chinese military has, to the best of its abilities, helped other countries, especially developing countries, to strengthen their armed forces. While taking into account the long-term development of these countries’ armed forces, it focuses on improving their overall capability to safeguard national security.Since 2003, China has trained more than 30,000 military personnel for over 130 countries. It also assists other developing countries every year by providing military aid with no political strings attached. Much of this material is used for the construction of such infrastructure as military academies and hospitals.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, while Asia-Pacific security cooperation looks promising, we still have a long way to go to secure our region. All countries should work in concert for its peace, stability and enduring prosperity.

We call for further strengthening of dispute management procedures to improve our ability to cope with crises. We believe that peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region should be put at the top of the agenda. Disputes should be resolved through negotiations with full respect to historical facts and the international law. The parties concerned should establish accessible and efficient dispute management and control mechanisms, refine their capacity to deal with crises, and prevent disputes from escalating. The Chinese military stands ready to seek appropriate solutions to relevant issues in collaboration with other parties by sharing information in a timely manner through a variety of liaison mechanisms at different levels.

We call for further strengthening of defense exchanges and cooperation to bolster strategic mutual trust. All countries should promote regular, open and inclusive contacts between their respective defense authorities and armed forces. They should put in place regular defense and security consultation mechanisms, reinforce bilateral and multilateral exchanges, forge a growing consensus, and enhance strategic mutual trust. We are willing to work together with other parties to promote the growth of positive military-to-military relations in the Asia-Pacific region by strengthening wide-ranging, multi-tiered and all-round cooperation.

We call for further strengthening of the regional security architecture to foster a stronger sense of belonging to a community of common destiny. We advocate that countries should transcend Cold War thinking and base their decisions on the reality of the Asia-Pacific region. They should take all parties’ security concerns into consideration. They should also accommodate each other’s comfort levels as they build an open, transparent, equal and inclusive Asia-Pacific security architecture.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, President Xi Jinping said at a recent APEC event, “Those who share the same ideal and follow the same path can be partner. Those who seek common ground while shelving differences can also be partners. More friends, more opportunities.” Let us commit ourselves to the goal of forging an Asia-Pacific partnership
featuring mutual trust, inclusiveness, cooperation and win-win results, and join hands to create a bright future for our region.

Thank you!

Editor :  Zhang Tao
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