China on Thursday urged the US military to reduce its naval and air activities in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) while sticking to its stand of not taking sides on the territorial dispute there, in order to maintain peace and stability in the region.
According to the official Xinhua news agency, Fan Changlong, vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, reaffirmed China’s position on the West Philippine Sea during his talks with US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter at the Pentagon on Thursday.
The West Philippine Sea issue is only an episode in the history of China-US ties, and the two sides should take the higher ground to look into the far future by paying more attention to other, more important regional and international issues, said Fan, who is on a week-long visit to the United States.
The Chinese general pointed out that the West Philippine Sea islands and their adjacent waters have been China’s territories since ancient times. China’s construction and maintenance of facilities on some of the islands and reefs are mainly aimed at improving the living and working conditions of the residents there.
Fan reiterated that China has the right to establish military facilities on its own territories.
His visit is aimed at implementing the important consensus reached by Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Barack Obama on further advancing the China-US military-to-military relationship, Fan said.
He noted that the two sides have made many important gains in recent years in building a new model of major-country relations, thanks to personal efforts by the two heads of state.
The military-to-military relationship in general has maintained a momentum of steady development as demonstrated by the signing of the two mutual trust mechanisms, new advances in the areas of exchanging high-level visits, holding institutionalized consultations and dialogues and conducting joint military drills and trainings, the general said.
Fan proposed the two militaries establish a new kind of military relationship featuring “mutual trust, cooperation, non-conflict and sustainability.”
He expressed the hope that the two sides will work together to increase contacts, boost strategic mutual trust, strengthen practical cooperation and effectively manage crises and risks.
On Taiwan-related issues, Fan urged the US government to abide by the one-China policy and refrain from sending wrong messages to the forces seeking the island’s independence from mainland China.
Carter agreed with the Chinese proposal of building a new type of military-to-military relationship.
Washington is looking forward to Xi’s state visit to the United States in September, and believes that the two militaries can establish a practical and sustainable relationship, he said.
The two military chiefs also exchanged views on issues of mutual concern, including military-to-military relations and issues concerning Taiwan, Japan and the Korean Peninsula.
On Friday, Fan is expected to witness, with US Army Chief of Staff Raymond Odierno, the signing of the China-US Army-to-Army Dialogue Mechanism at the National Defense University, which will open a new channel for leaders in the two armies “to raise and discuss issues of mutual concern such as humanitarian assistance and disaster response practices,” according to the Pentagon.
The general is also scheduled to hold meetings with senior US officials at the White House and State Department also on Friday.
The high-level Chinese military delegation headed by Fan, which started its US trip on Monday, has already visited such places as a Boeing factory in Seattle, the Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego and the US Army base at Fort Hood, Texas.
DFA launches documentary
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has launched the first of three documentaries on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) issue as part of its drive to educate the public.
The documentary, entitled “Karapatan sa Karagatan,” is one of the department’s several initiatives to inform the public about the maritime issues clogging the diplomatic relations between China and the Philippines
The 20-minute documentary will be shown at 5:30 p.m. on PTV Channel 4.
Charles Jose, Foreign Affairs spokesman, said the documentary was funded by the Foreign Affairs department and executed by the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCCO).
The first part will tackle the economic issues surrounding the dispute while the second part will discuss the historical basis of the issue.
The last part of the series will tackle the legal aspect of the dispute, which involved the arbitration case filed by the Philippines against China.
The first part of the series, which was exclusively shown to the media on Thursday, showed the economic losses from China’s massive and aggressive reclamation projects in the West Philippine Sea.
Portions of the series were discussed by Henry Bensurto Jr., a maritime affairs expert and the Philippine consul general in San Francisco.
He also talked about the Philippines’ territorial and coastal waters, continental shelf and exclusive economic zone.
Bensurto noted as well Beijing’s usurpation of the Mischief Reef, the Scarborough Shoal and the Fiery Cross Reef, all of which sit inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.