‘Frank dialogue’ key to solving territorial disputes—Chinese defense officialBy Fat Reyes
MANILA, Philippines—A defense attaché of the Chinese Embassy on Tuesday said he believed that a frank dialogue would provide good solutions to territorial disputes between the Philippines and China.
“I am confident that if we try our best to make frank dialogue rather than monologue, we could find good solutions to disputes and resume our friendly relations,” Air force Senior Col. Chen Fangming said in his opening speech at the celebration of the 85th founding anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army of China held at the Makati Shangri-la Hotel.
Chen, in his speech, noted that Chinese Defense Minister General Liang Guanglie reached a three point consensus on disputes regarding Scarborough Shoal (which China calls Huangyan Island) and the West Philippine Sea (which China calls South China Sea) with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin in Cambodia last May.
He said the consensus involved each side restraining words and actions, avoiding potential escalation of the issue, and maintaining the door open for communication and seeking good solutions.
The Philippines and China, along with Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam have competing claims over the West Philippine Sea.
Tensions over the area have escalated in recent months, with the Philippines and China engaging at a standoff in Scarborough Shoal in April, and Vietnam protesting Chinese energy projects in the disputed waters.
Chen also said bilateral defense ties between the Philippines and China witnessed “smooth development” since its establishment in 1996, and that various activities paved the way for “mutual understanding and good relationship.”
“China’s National Defense Ministry has presented its Filipino counterparts with several dozens of engineering equipment for road construction and disaster rescue operations. All of these activities have brought about mutual understanding and good relationship,” Chen said.
Chen noted the activities, including, among others, friendly visits of about 100 military delegates, including five Filipino defense secretaries and their four Chinese counterparts, exchange of military students, mutual visits of navy ships and air crafts, and the establishment of defense and security consultation mechanism.
Chen said that various perceptions have been raised on China’s economic rise but that “peaceful development is China’s national policy.”
“China will not adopt the approach of military expansion now or in the future, no matter how its economy develops,” said.
“So our national policy determines that our defense policy is defensive in nature and our armed forces is a force of peace defender and promoter. The size of our defense expenditure adheres to the principle of coordinated development of national defense and economic development,” he added.
Chen also called for “more frank communication and dialogue” and “mindful listening and speaking with empathy” in dealing with the issue.
Chen said that he would finish his official duty in the Philippines, return to China after two weeks, and retire after 37 years of service in the Chinese Air Force.
He said he would be succeeded by Senior Col. Wang Jinbo, who arrived in the country last week.
Also in attendance to the event were Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Ma Keqing, Philippine Navy Flag Officer in Command Vice Admiral Alexander Pama, Philippine Coast Guard Chief Vice Admiral Edmund Tan, and other deputy defense secretaries, generals, admirals, ambassadors, counselors, leaders of Filipino-Chinese communities, and members of diplomatic communities and the Chinese Embassy.