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President Xi vows to protect maritime interests

By WANG QIAN and ZHANG YUNBI  (China Daily)

08:09, August 01, 2013

Country will enhance enforcement to match its national strength

China's top leader has vowed to protect the country's maritime interests and be fully prepared for the complex issues in the region.

President Xi Jinping made the pledge on Wednesday while chairing a group study session of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee to discuss a roadmap to becoming a maritime power.

Xi stressed China will stick to the principle of "shelving disputes and carrying out joint development" for areas over which China owns sovereign rights.

"We love peace and will remain on a path of peaceful development, but that doesn't mean giving up our rights, especially involving the nation's core interests," Xi said.

The country will enhance its maritime law enforcement capacity to match its overall national strength, he said.

Li Guoqiang, deputy director of the Center for Chinese Borderland History and Geography at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Xi's speech showed the country's decision to protect its maritime interests, an important part of building China into a maritime power.

"The speech also emphasized solving maritime issues through diplomatic and political means, reflecting that China, as a responsible country, will not use force rashly," Li said.

Sea disputes between China and other countries have surged in recent years. In the South China Sea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei all have competing claims over some Chinese islands, while Sino-Japanese relations have been strained since September when Tokyo "illegally purchased" three islands in the East China Sea.

Yang Baoyun, an expert on Southeast Asian Studies at Peking University, said Xi's speech signaled that China will maintain steady development in its neighboring areas and protect its maritime interests.

"It will be tough for China, but we are making all efforts," Yang said.

Xi also stressed the importance of developing the marine economy, protecting the marine environment and strengthening marine science and technology research.

"A developed marine economy is an important part of building maritime power," Xi said, adding that China will foster and strengthen emerging high-tech marine sectors and optimize the structure of the marine industry, while completing a general plan for innovative marine technology.

The emerging sectors in the marine economy include marine bio-pharmaceuticals, seawater utilization and renewable energies, and offshore equipment manufacturing.

While boosting the country's marine economy, Xi emphasized the importance of protecting the marine environment, saying efforts will be made to control the worsening marine environment.

He said marine environmental protection will be given the same priority as marine exploration.

A mechanism to enforce compensation for marine ecological damage to protect the ocean will be created, he said.

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