Chinese navy build-up no threat to ASEAN countries
Updated: 2010-04-01 03:48
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BEIJING - Chinese military experts have told their counterparts from members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy will never be a threat to the region.
China would not build a navy capable to strive for global hegemony, said Senior Colonel Chen Zhou, a researcher with the PLA's Academy of Military Sciences, at the China-ASEAN Defense and Security Dialogue concluded in Beijing on Wednesday.
Chen was responding to Mariano S. Sontillanosa, a retired Commodore and vice president of Philippine National Defense College, who asked Chinese military scholars what guarantees China could give to the ASEAN members that its growing maritime power would not be used aggressively.
"ASEAN countries should be assured that China's development of its navy is only to maintain the country's own maritime interests and regional peace and stability," Chen said.
Chen cited Chairman Mao Zedong's remark that "We must build up a powerful navy" since most of the foreign invasions the Chinese people had suffered came from the sea.
"China is the only member of the UN Security Council which has not realized complete reunification," Chen said. "We still face many challenges, such as maritime disputes with other countries, that the army cannot handle alone."
China is speeding up construction and acquisition of new modern navy weaponry, which has stirred up fears over its military and political intentions.
To safeguard merchant vessels passing through the pirate-ravaged Gulf of Aden and waters off the coast of Somalia, China has deployed new destroyers and frigates to the region since the end of 2008.
Last year, the PLA Navy unveiled its previously secret nuclear-powered submarines and new amphibious assault ship at an international fleet review on April 23 to celebrate the navy's 60th founding anniversary.
Chen, a frequent participator in drafting China's biennial national defense white paper, stressed that although the PLA Navy was improving its capabilities in transforming from coastal defense to offshore defense, it would not build a navy for global power projection and engagement like the US Navy.
The latest Chinese defense white paper issued in 2008 said the PLA Navy would cooperate with foreign counterparts to deal with non-traditional security threats.
In recent years, the PLA has jointly conducted maritime exercises with fleets from the United Kingdom, India and Pakistan. It also held joint military training and exercises with the ASEAN members such as Singapore and Thailand to counter terrorism and other security threats.