'Trust vital' for Straits military ties

08:17, April 01, 2011      

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Authorities on both sides of the Taiwan Straits should explore the possibility of building a military security mechanism of mutual trust, formally end hostilities and reach a peace agreement, according to a white paper on China's national defense issued on Thursday.

It is the first time for the biennial white paper, issued by the State Council Information Office, to mention such a mechanism, proposed by President Hu Jintao in late 2008.

Although cross-Straits economic and business ties have boomed during the past three decades -- with mainland investment from the island topping more than $200 billion -- the two sides have yet to establish military contact. Taiwan has repeatedly expressed concern over the mainland's military deployment across the Straits, according to media reports.

"The mainland's military deployment absolutely doesn't target the Taiwan compatriots," Senior Colonel Geng Yansheng, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, said at a news conference to introduce the white paper on Thursday.

Problems about military deployment could be discussed when the two sides hold talks on the military security mechanism of mutual trust, he said.

The white paper says the two sides may also discuss political relations "in the special situation that China is not yet reunified in a pragmatic manner".

"The Chinese people on both sides of the Straits should try their best to avoid repeating the history of armed conflict between fellow countrymen," Geng said, adding that the mainland has been committed to stabilizing cross-Straits relations and easing military security concerns.

He suggested that the two sides should establish contacts and set up exchanges on military issues "at an appropriate time" and talk about the military security mechanism of mutual trust.

The defense paper repeated opposition to sales of armaments by the United States to the island, saying they were "severely impeding Sino-US relations and impairing the peaceful development of cross-Straits ties".

The white paper also says China's military wants to adopt confidence-building measures with the militaries of other countries.

That means China and other countries should deepen mutual understanding and trust on security, a new concept included for the first time in the paper since it was launched in 1998, said Chen Zhou, an expert from the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) Academy of Military Science, who participated in compiling the defense paper.

"If a country wants to feel safe it has to make other nations feel the same. It reflects China's deepening view of security," he told China Daily.

Geng reasserted the Chinese stance that it would never use its military might to threaten neighbors.

"At present and in the future, no matter how developed China is, China will never seek hegemony or pursue expansionist policies," Geng said.

"China's armed forces adopt a peaceful, cooperative and constructive approach in participating in international military affairs," he said.

But the defense white paper notes China faces an increasingly "volatile" Asian region where the US has expanded its strategic footprint, and that better military ties between Beijing and Washington rest on respect for each other's interests.

"The US is reinforcing its regional military alliances and increasing its involvement in regional security affairs," it says. "Suspicion about China, interference and countering moves against China from the outside, are on the increase."

Military expenditure

On China's military expenditure in the past two years, the report said the share of China's annual defense expenditure as part of its GDP has remained steady, while the share as part of overall State financial expenditure has been moderately decreasing.

According to the report, China's State financial expenditure was up 25.7 percent in 2008 and 21.9 percent in 2009 over the previous year.

But defense expenditure was 417.88 billion yuan ($63.81 billion) in 2008, a year-on-year increase of 17.5 percent and 495.11 billion yuan in 2009, a year-on-year increase of 18.5 percent.

Earlier this month, China unveiled a 12.7 percent rise in its 2011 defense budget of 601.1 billion yuan.

The Pentagon in February rolled out a record base budget for fiscal year 2012 of $553 billion.

Military attaches from 81 countries on Thursday listened to a briefing on the paper at the Foreign Affairs Office of the Ministry of National Defense.

"China's defense budget this year is higher, but it's impossible to have a modern army without spending money. For me it's normal," said Colonel Drago Horvat, defense attache with the embassy of the Republic of Croatia.

Captain Mike McGrath, Canadian Defense Attache, said the increase in the budget is in line with China's increasing GDP while others praised the emphasis on negotiation.

"In terms of security in the region, I think the approach of the Chinese government and PLA in terms of negotiation as a way to resolve issues is very positive," said Colonel P.M. Cunningham, defense attache with the embassy of New Zealand.

"It's possibly the only approach we should be looking at in this region," he said.

Reuters and Xinhua contributed to this story.

Source: China Daily
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