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Military plans to join 'strong' exchanges

(China Daily)

08:35, March 07, 2013

A former defense ministry official on Wednesday rejected the possibility of a war, saying the Chinese military has a "strong" exchange plan this year, including holding joint drills with Russia and the United States, and giving a "positive response" to the Pentagon's invitation to join the world's largest naval exercise.

The complications of China's diplomatic environment have been exaggerated, Qian Lihua, former head of the foreign affairs office of the Ministry of National Defense, said on the sidelines of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, which opened on Sunday.

Every country will feel more uncertain than before since the world is still restructuring after the end of Cold War, but new leaderships in China, the US and Japan all want a favorable environment for their domestic development, he added.

The political adviser's remarks were made amid simmering tension between China and its neighbors over territorial rows that escalated last year.

Even when China-Japan relations hit their lowest point in years due to the row over the Diaoyu Islands, for which Japan should be blamed, both sides still maintained a willingness to solve the issue through diplomatic means, said Qian.

"Some neighboring countries keep challenging China's red line primarily for domestic reasons, but I don't think they have enough military strength to start a war or can afford the consequences," he said.

Washington's role in the territorial rows has been controversial as it has stressed its neutrality over the issues, but the Obama administration's accelerated Asia-Pacific "pivot" strategy was widely seen as a boost to its Asian allies' stance against China.

It also launched a number of drills with Tokyo, Seoul and Manila in 2012. The biennial Rim of the Pacific naval exercise in Hawaii, the world's largest naval exercise, included 22 nations and 25,000 personnel last year, but China was excluded.

Related bodies "have been actively studying" the invitation to the US-led exercise to be held next year, said Qian. Former US defense secretary Leon Panetta made the invitation to his counterpart Liang Guanglie during his first trip to China in this position last September.

"The invitation is part of Washington's attempt to warm relations with China, and we will give a positive response to it," he said.

"Chinese culture has decided the country would never be aggressive or seek hegemony even through it is rapidly developing. Allegations about China's assertiveness come mainly from concern about its huge size and is an intentional smear, which aims to disturb China's rise."

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