Colonel Wu Qian:
Good afternoon, friends from the media. Welcome to attend the regular press conference of the Ministry of National Defense of this month. Starting from last month, we have invited more friends from the media to attend our regular press conference, and today I am very happy to see some new media friends here, and you are all welcome.
I will start by making one piece of announcement:
As agreed upon by the Chinese, the Australian and the US defense departments, the three sides will conduct “Kowari-2016” army skills joint training in Darwin, Australia, from August 24 to September 11. The subject is field survival training.
Besides, from September 14 to 23, the armies of China and Australia will conduct the “Pandaroo-2016” joint training, the main subjects of which includes canoeing, abseiling, etc. The two joint training exercises are aimed at enhancing mutual understanding, deepening practical military cooperation, and improving training level of the participating troops.
Now, the floor is open for questions.
Question: During last month’s press conference, the spokesperson mentioned that China and Russia would hold a joint maritime exercise in September in relevant waters in the South China Sea. Do you have more information to offer this month? Have the participating forces been decided? And it is also reported that during the joint maritime exercise, there will be a joint landing operation. Could you please confirm?
Answer: From August 16 to 21, Chinese and Russian navies conducted the third round of consultation in Zhanjiang for the Joint Sea-2016 joint maritime exercise, making in-depth coordination on the execution plan, communications support and logistical support concerning the joint exercise, and reaching a wide range of consensus. The two sides also visited relevant exercise venues and facilities. The subject for the joint exercise is joint maritime defense operation. We will release further information concerning the joint maritime exercise in due time.
Question: Recently, there has been lots of media coverage both domestically and abroad about China’s first home-made aircraft carrier and a good-looking picture of the aircraft carrier is circulating on the Internet, showing that the assembly of the main body of the carrier is about to complete and the construction of the carrier is coming to an end. Could you please confirm the authenticity of the reports and the picture? When will China’s first domestically-made aircraft carrier be commissioned? Do you have a timetable?
Answer: What I’m authorized to tell you is that the construction of the first domestically-built aircraft carrier is pressing ahead according to plan. About the good-looking picture you mentioned, I think you are only half right. Our first domestically-built aircraft carrier not only looks impressive, it is also strong and powerful inside.
Question: Recently, the PLA Daily has carried a commentary criticizing Indian government’s decision to deploy BrahMos missiles along the India-China border areas. The commentary also spoke about possible countermeasures from China. How would you comment on this?
Answer: To maintain peace and stability in the China-India border areas is an important consensus reached by the two sides. We hope the Indian side can do more for peace and stability in the China-India border region, rather than the contrary.
By the way, I noticed from your question that you might be a very avid reader of the PLA Daily. I will tell this to my colleagues in the PLA Daily.
Question: It is reported online that the current 18 group army corps of the PLA Army will be reorganized into divisions in the ongoing military reform. Could you please confirm the report?
Answer: Such report is pure speculation and does not accord with facts.
Question: According to South Korean media, Chinese warplanes taking part in the joint training in the East China Sea have flown through the overlapping areas of the Chinese and South Korean air defense identification zones and flown close to the Suyan Islet. The South Korean military dispatched its military aircraft to intercept the Chinese warplanes. The reports commented that China did so to put more pressure on South Korea as a result of its decision to allow the US to deploy the THAAD system in South Korea. Could you please confirm and comment on this?
Secondly, there are media reports saying that after the G20 summit and before the US presidential election, China may start construction of the Huangyan Island. What is your comment?
Answer: First of all, I’d like to make one clarification. The air defense identification zone is not territorial airspace. Recently, the Chinese military aircraft flew to relevant airspace above the Sea of Japan to conduct training. On their way to the training area, they flew though the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone and other international airspace. This training is included in the training program.
On the issue about the deployment of the THAAD system, we have expressed our opposition very clearly on numerous occasions during the previous press conferences.
On the issue concerning the Huangyan Island, I have responded to similar questions in a previous press conference. I will not repeat it here.
Question: It was reported that a Chinese delegation headed by a senior Chinese PLA official had visited Syria and met with the Syrian Defense Minister and other senior officers in Damascus last week. The report also mentioned that China would provide training for the Syrian army. Does this mean that China now intends to get involved militarily in the Syria conflicts in the same way that Russia has?
Answer: This year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Syria. For a long period of time, China and Syria have helped each other. China has been playing a positive role for the political settlement of the Syrian conflict and has supported the independence of Syria.
Upon mutual agreement, the Chinese military has provided humanitarian assistance including medical equipment as well as medicines to the Syrian side to help ease the humanitarian crisis in Syria. Due to the same reason, we have also provided training slots to the Syrian armed forces on medical service and nursing.
Question: According to the media, General Milley, the Chief of US Army Staff, told the Chinese side during his visit to China that the deployment of the THAAD system was merely for protecting the South Korea and the US personnel from missile attacks by the DPRK and that its radar, with a detection range of only a few hundred kilometers, would not be able to cover the Chinese mainland and would not pose threat to China in any way. What is your comment?
Answer: The deployment of the THAAD system by the US in the Republic Korea is not merely a technical issue, but more of a strategic one. Such deployment breaks regional strategic balance, endangers China’s strategic security interests, and compromise China-US and China-ROK strategic mutual trust. The deployment of the THAAD system is like opening the Pandora’s Box in the region, the undesirable consequences of which are not to be underestimated.
I want to add that despise repeated US official explanation that the detection range of the THAAD system is only a few hundred kilometers, the ROK media recently reported that Vice Admiral Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency of the US Department of Defense, said during a recent visit to South Korea that the THAAD system can be turned from terminal mode to forward-base mode in a very short period of time. And in the forward-base mode, the radar detection range can reach more than 1,000 kilometers. His remarks sound very interesting.
Question: We have learned that the reform of the media organizations that belong to the Chinese military is going to start. What kind of changes are we expected to see? What’s the purpose of this reform?
Answer: The top-down military reform that we are engaged in this time is being pushed forward step by step according to the overall plan. The reform of the military’s media organizations will also be carried out step by step along with the progressing of the overall military reform. We will release relevant information in due time.
Question: According to the South Korean media, two armed North Korean soldiers crossed the China-North Korea border on August 17 and were spotted by the Chinese border defense troops. The two sides exchanged fires and there were injuries among the Chinese soldiers. Could you please confirm?
My second question is that, since the beginning of August, the dispute between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands has become increasingly hot. The Chinese naval fleet conducted military exercise near the Sea of Japan in mid August, arousing a high degree of concern from the Japanese side. What is the intention of the Chinese military to conduct such an exercise in this period of time?
Answer: On your first question, according to our knowledge, the report by the South Korean media is pure fabrication.
On your second question, the Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands are inherently Chinese territory. The recent training conducted by the PLA Navy and Air Force in the Sea of Japan and West Pacific was a routine activity included in the annual training program. It is in accordance with the international law and international norms, and is not targeting any particular country or any other target. In the future, the Chinese armed forces will continue to conduct such kind of training according to plan.
Question: It is reported that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) launched a ballistic missile from its submarine yesterday, the ROK military was very much concerned about the missile launch, saying that it threatened its national security. What is the Chinese military’s comment?
Answer: My colleague in the Foreign Ministry has already responded to this question yesterday.
Question: The Japanese media reported that since early August, the Chinese side has been increasing the activities of Chinese ships around the Diaoyu Islands. I want to ask whether these reports are true? If so, why are there increased activities now? Is it because of the Chinese side’s exercise in that area? Has there been any communication between the Chinese and the Japanese side on the issue?
Answer: I think China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi responded to a similar question yesterday. It is partly because of the start of the fishing season around the Diaoyu Islands and partly because of the media hype in Japan.
Question : You have just talked about the training for the Syrian military. Does that mean that Chinese troops are present in Syria for the training?
Answer: As I have mentioned, recently the Chinese PLA sent a foreign affairs delegation to Syria for a visit and the training China provided is in the field of medical service and nursing.
Question: According to Japanese media, Chinese ambassador to Japan told the Japanese side in late June that if the Japanese self-defense force took part in the so-called Freedom of Navigation (FON) operations of the US in the South China Sea, it would be an action interpreted by the Chinese side as crossing the red line and that it would not be tolerated. It was also reported that the Chinese side gave the hint that military means would be used as countermeasures. How do you comment on such media reports by the Japanese side two months later? What is the Chinese military’s position on the possible actions by the Japanese self-defense force in the South China Sea?
Answer: We are firmly opposed to Japanese attempts to send its self-defense forces to join the so-called Freedom of Navigation (FON) operations by the US in the South China Sea. Japan is not a concerned party in the South China Sea issue, and has no right to intervene in relevant disputes. The Chinese armed forces are firm in its resolve and determination to safeguard the sovereignty, territorial integrity and maritime interests and rights of the country, and will resolutely deal with various threats and challenges.
Question: The International Army Games 2016 held in Russia and Kazakhstan has concluded recently. Could you please brief us on the Chinese military’s participation in the International Army Games?
Answer: The International Army Games 2016 concluded not long ago. There are altogether 23 competitions this year, including Tank Biathlon, Suvorov Attack, Seaborne Assault and Aviadarts. 18 countries sent teams to take part in the Games. The Chinese delegation took part in 21 of the 23 competitions and won 1 first prize, 17 second prizes and 3 third prizes in team events.
To achieve good results in the Games, the Chinese participating troops have used their biblical strength, and attention and support from the public is of equal importance. This year’s International Army Games coincided with the Rio Olympic Games. The Chinese public, while watching the Olympic Games, also gave lots of support and attention to the International Army Games. I’d like to express my sincere gratitude and respect to all of them.
Question: As you have mentioned, there will be a trilateral joint training in Australia among the Chinese, the US and the Australian armed forces. Starting from August, there have been lots of exchanges and interactions between the militaries of China and the US, such as the USS Benfold’s port visit and US Pacific Fleet Commander’s visit to China, and also the US Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley’s visit to China.
These all happened after the South China Sea arbitration and the decision on the US deployment of the THAAD missile defense system in the ROK. Does this suggest that despite the great differences between the two military on major issues, the cooperation and exchanges between the two military will not be suspended nor be affected as there is certain kind of mutual understanding?
Answer: The mil-to-mil relationship is an important component of bilateral relationship between China and the United States. A healthy and stable mil-to-mil relationship is of great significance for bilateral relationship.
China attaches great importance to developing mil-to-mil relations with the US and has made unremitting efforts in this regard. In the maintenance and development of relations, it is important for the two sides to make joint efforts. Thus, we think the two sides should strengthen dialogue, communication, exchanges and cooperation and properly handle differences and sensitive issues, so as to push forward the healthy and stable development of mil-to-mil relations between the two sides.
Question: On the one hand, I heard that singing and dancing ensembles of the PLA, namely the officers and soldiers engaged in cultural and artistic work, had been laid off during the current military reform. On the other hand, I also heard that the cultural and artistic work groups of the military had only changed their names, affiliations or organization forms. My question is what is really going on and how many of them will be laid off or downsized from the military?
Answer: As I have mentioned before, this round of military reform is conducted in the top-down, step-by-step and coordinated manner. The task of national defense and military reform will be basically completed by 2020. As to the reform of the cultural and artistic troops, we will offer more information in due time.
Question: In the press release issued by the Chinese side after the talk between the Chinese and Japanese foreign ministers yesterday, it is said that both sides agreed to promote dialogue, make preparations for a new round of high-level oceanic affairs consultations and establish the maritime and air liaison mechanism at an early date, so as to build the East China Sea into a sea of peace and cooperation.
And in the press conference in June, you have mentioned that the Chinese side hopes that Japan should remove obstacles for the consultation concerning the establishment of the maritime and air liaison mechanism. Do you have any further information to offer?
Answer: The Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has already stated China’s position on this issue. We attach great importance to the establishment of the maritime and air liaison mechanism. We urge the Japanese side to remove obstacles and work together with China so as to launch this mechanism at an early date.
Question: The RIMPACK-2016 joint maritime exercise concluded in August. Could you please brief us on what subjects the Chinese Navy took part in and what you have gained from participating in this joint exercise? And in the future, will the Chinese Navy take part in the core training subjects of the Rim of the Pacific Exercises? You mentioned the Olympic Games just now. We found that many PLA athletes also took part in the Games. What about their achievements and how would you comment on their performance?
Answer: The RIMPAC-2016 joint maritime exercise concluded on August 5. The PLAN 153 task group consisting of 5 ships took part in the exercise. During the exercise, the PLAN ships conducted main gun firing, replenishment in navigation, anti-piracy, submarine assistance and life saving, and tactical maneuver with other navies. What we have gained from participating in the exercise can be summarized into 3 aspects. The first one is that we have expanded our horizon by getting to know the operational doctrines, training methods, and logistical support of other navies. The second one is that we have tested our capability by conducting joint operations with other navies to deal with non-traditional security threats. The third one is that we have sown the seeds of friendship by extensive engagement with our counterparts, which has deepened mutual understanding and trust, and which has enabled us to convey our sincere wish to expand interaction and deepen cooperation.
On your question about China’s participation in core training subjects, I am sorry to say that the US side takes the 2000 National Defense Authorization Act as an excuse to put limits on China’s participation in core training subjects of the RIMPAC exercises. We are resolutely opposed to such behavior. There is an old saying in English that it takes two to tango, and also in China we say that it is no good to have one-sided enthusiasm. The development of mil-to-mil relationship requires efforts from both sides. We request the US side to take concrete actions to remove legal obstacles for the development of mil-to-mil relations and work together with the Chinese side to push forward the healthy and stable development of mil-to-mil relationship.
On the question about PLA athletes’ participation in the Olympic Games, there were altogether 27 PLA athletes on the Chinese delegation. They participated in 15 sports, won 1 gold medal, two silver medals, and 1 bronze medal, and broke one Olympic record. I would like to extend to them my heartfelt congratulations.
Question: According to Japanese media reports, Japan’s Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said during his visit to the Yokosuka Base of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force on the 23rd of this month that the Chinese military is expanding its operation areas both in the air and at sea around the Diaoyu Islands with increased frequency, and is attempting to change the status quo unilaterally. He urged the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force to strengthen alert and surveillance to avoid any possible mistakes. How does the Chinese side react to her remarks?
Answer: The Diaoyu Island and the affiliated islets are inherently Chinese territory. Navigation and training activities by Chinese side in relevant airspace and waters are reasonable and legitimate and other countries have no right to point fingers.
When talking about changing the status quo unilaterally, the Japanese government has forcefully pushed ahead with its plan of purchasing the Diaoyu Islands since 2012. It has also been continuously strengthening the military deployment in southwestern Japan, and has passed the new security bill to lift the ban on its military to exercise the right of collective self defense. All of such actions are worthy of vigilance from its Asian neighbors and international community.
The Chinese armed forces will take all necessary measures to safeguard China’s national sovereignty security and maritime rights and interests.
Question: You just mentioned that, among the Chinese delegation members that visited Syria, one is named Guan Youfei. He is the director for international military cooperation. Is this information accurate? Could you please confirm?
Answer: The PLA foreign affairs delegation that visited Syria was headed by Rear Admiral Guan Youfei, who is the chief of the Office for International Military Cooperation of the CMC.
Question: The decision by Indian government to deploy the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile along the China-India border may pose security threats to heartland of China, including the Yunnan Province and the Tibet Autonomous Region. What kind of counter-measures will the Chinese military have?
During the Han Kuang Exercise conducted by the military of Taiwan, there are video clips showing the simulated confrontational phase between the PLA and the military of Taiwan. How do you comment?
Answer: I have already responded to your first question.
On the basis of the 1992 Consensus, maintaining peaceful development of cross-strait relations is the fundamental guarantee for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. The Taiwan independence secessionist forces and their activities are the gravest threat to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.