(AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Chinese military has denied adopting a tough approach
in handling territorial disputes in the South China Sea, claiming instead that its
recent moves in the disputed waters, including the establishment of a garrison
on Sansha, were intended to safeguard national interests. At a press briefing
on the nation's defence strategy ahead of today's 85th anniversary of the
founding of the People's Liberation Army, the military said China wanted to
maintain friendly ties with other countries and engage in bilateral dialogue to
settle territorial disputes. Neither the Philippines nor Vietnam are convinced.
Both nations have the claims in the disputed waters and want a comprehensive and
binding agreement for the whole area. Meanwhile, a liberal-leaning general was
promoted within China's People's Liberation Army, a move designed, some experts
believe, to project a softer, more open image.
is not appropriate to link the legitimate activities of the PLA in safeguarding
the lawful rights of China to any suggestion China is acting tough towards
other countries," said Geng Yansheng, a senior colonel and a National
Defence Ministry spokesman.
moves by China in the South China Sea, including setting up a garrison
in the Paracels, were intended to "safeguard China's sovereignty,
territorial integrity, maritime rights and interests. These activities are not
targeted at any country or any party," he said.
spending, he explained, reflects only a desire to modernise the forces, which
have been far weaker than those of other countries like the United States.
has also criticised Japan, after Tokyo released its annual defence report, describing
Tokyo's claims in the East
China Sea and its characterisation of China's growing military might as irresponsible
to the Japanese report, relations between the People's Liberation Army and the
Communist Party leadership were "getting complex", and that there was
a possibility that the degree of military influence on foreign policy decisions
Beijing, state media said Tokyo's warnings were "mistaken" and that
the report would further jeopardise Sino-Japanese ties,
in the Philippines, an oil exploration tender for three oil and gas exploration
blocks in the South China Sea was a partial flop.
President Benigno Aquino's government accepted four bids for what was touted as the
country's biggest exploration tender. Only six firms showed up for the
bidding out of the 38 domestic and foreign firms that had pre-qualified.
officials were quick to play down the territorial dispute as a reason for the
poor turnout. "We don't think the tension in the West Philippine Sea [its term
for the South China Sea] area had a negative impact on our efforts," Jose
Layug, an energy department undersecretary, said.
"No one can afford to upset the Chinese and be marginalised in the Chinese
market," said Gordon Kwan, the Hong Kong-based head of regional energy research
at Mirae Asset Securities. Only businesses "with no chance in China" could
afford to bid.
In the South
China Sea, the Spratly and Paracel Islands are potentially rich in oil and gas.
China, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan, Philippines and Malaysia have a claim to part
of the sea.
and Hanoi have accused Beijing of conducting an aggressive
and imperialist policy that has led to incidents involving fishing
boats from all three nations.
between Manila and Beijing rose in April when Chinese patrol boats blocked
Filipino Navy ships trying to stop Chinese trawlers off the Scarborough Shoal,
which Manila claims.
hegemonic aims also worry the United States, which has increased its naval
presence in the Pacific.
light of the situation, China has tried to project a softer image to the
outside world. The recent promotion of Liu Yazhou from lieutenant general to
full general can be seen as part of China's leadership's attempt to refashion
its image as open-minded and inclusive, analysts say.
60, has been supporting democracy since the early 1980s and has warned that
China must embrace US-style democracy or accept a Soviet-style collapse.