SINGAPORE – A top Chinese military official said Sunday that Beijing will not compromise on its claims to contested isles in the East and South China seas, despite its willingness to engage in discussions.
“We should put aside disputes . . . and seek solutions through dialogue and coordination,” Lt. Gen. Qi Jianguo, deputy chief of the General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army, said in a speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue meeting in Singapore.
Qi stressed, however, that “dialogue and consultations for the sake of peace by no means denote unconditional compromise.”
Asserting China’s sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea as well as a host of South China Sea isles claimed by multiple nations, he said patrols by Chinese warships are “totally legitimate, as it is uncontroversial to patrol within our own territory.”
His remarks came after U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned at the annual forum Saturday that Washington opposes any forcible intervention to alter the current status of the Senkaku Islands, as well as that of islet chains in the South China Sea where China’s claims overlap with a variety of regional neighbors.
“The United States stands firmly against any coercive attempts to alter the status quo,” Hagel said in a speech in an apparent allusion to recent Chinese assertiveness over the territories.
But Qi, without making any direct references, appeared to take a swipe at the U.S. military re-balancing in Asia, warning that “countries in the region should refrain from building military alliances, setting imaginary enemies and taking action against a third party.”
Qi also rejected the Philippine’s move to persuade China to settle their sovereignty clash over the Spratly Islands in a U.N.-affiliated court. The Spratlys are claimed in their entirety or in part by a raft of rival nations.
The Singapore forum, the 12th of its kind, opened Friday evening and brings together defense ministers and officials mainly from the Asia-Pacific region.