By Liu Xuanzun and Guo Yuandan, Global Times
Defense ministers from China and the US on Thursday highlighted the need to expand high-level ties to ease tensions and prevent an escalation of conflicts, while analysts stressed that the US should better reflect on the true nature of its motives and role in recent provocative military actions in the South China Sea.
Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe met with US Defense Secretary James Mattis on Thursday on the sidelines of a regional security conference in Singapore, where the two agreed that the world’s two largest economies need to deepen high-level ties, enhance trust, expand communication and manage disputes to ensure that the military ties are contributing to the stability of bilateral ties, China’s Defense Ministry said in a statement released on late Thursday.
China’s stance on the Taiwan question, South China Sea issues are unshakable and Chinese military’s determination to safeguard soverignty and national security are also firm, Wei stressed.
Mattis said that though China and the US have disputes, they are not confrontations and competition does not have to result in confrontation, the statement said.
The meeting indicates the Chinese and US militaries are willing to manage disputes and make relations between the two militaries a keystone to the stable development of relations between the two countries, a military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Thursday.
“Strengthening communication between the two militaries is never a gift from one side, it must be mutually beneficial,” the anonymous expert said.
The meeting between Wei and Mattis comes after the US flew two B-52 strategic bombers near islands in the South China Sea, US media outlet CNN reported on Tuesday.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said at a daily briefing on Thursday that “China resolutely opposes countries using freedom of navigation as an excuse to harm other countries’ sovereignty and disturb regional peace and stability.”
China will take necessary measures to safeguard its sovereignty and security interests, Lu said.
The Chinese military expert noted that the US has created a paradoxical struggle. On one hand, it expects to avoid major conflicts with China as conflicts would only bring harm to both and world peace, which is why the US also supports continued interactions to manage disputes, said the expert.
However, the US continues to stoke tensions in the South China Sea in order to contain China and seek excuses for maintaining its massive military presence and influence in the region, the expert noted.
In late September, two B-52 bombers flew over the South China Sea, and on September 30, the USS Decatur, a US navy destroyer, also entered South China Sea waters before being driven away by a Chinese navy ship.
No step back
While the US accuses China of “militarizing” the South China Sea, its motive is to alienate China from other countries in the region and to gain leverage on other issues in the region, Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing, told the Global Times on Thursday.
While the accusation is groundless, the US itself is causing military disputes in the region to create the illusion that the US is “indispensable to the region’s stability,” said Li.
Ni Feng, deputy director of the Institute of American Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday that China is not likely to counter US military actions with military actions.
“A military confrontation can easily trigger domestic hostility in the US, which may result in more serious consequences than the trade dispute,” Ni warned, noting that China does not want to see the issue get out of control.
Tensions in the South China Sea have significantly de-escalated in the past two years, with countries directly involved in the disputes returning to talks and negotiations, said a commentary People’s Daily Overseas Edition published on Thursday.
The US will be seen as a disrupter in the South China Sea if it continues to believe it can gain something at the expense of China, it said.