Beijing warns against growing military alliances

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 August, 2007, 12:00am


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Beijing yesterday warned that a return to 'cold-war' thinking was putting regional security at risk.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi used his first address to a major international gathering to warn against nations strengthening military alliances in what observers saw as a warning to the United States, Japan and Australia.

'Under the influence of the cold-war mentality, there is a trend towards building up military alliances to gain absolute military superiority,' Mr Yang said in his main speech to some 28 counterparts at the Asean Regional Forum on security in Manila.

'This undermines efforts to build political mutual trust, causes uncertainty to regional security and has become a source of concern.'

Insisting the China was a force for peace, equality and co-operation in the region, Mr Yang said 'old thinking' based on alliances and raw power had subjected the world to 'dominance' and wars in the last century.

Mr Yang avoided targeting specific countries, but his speech comes as Beijing's own military build-up is being closely watched in the region.

The US, Japan and Australia are strengthening a three-way military alliance, while India is also being courted as nations seek to counter any future threat as China grows in strength.

China's fraternal ally Vietnam is also seeking to deepen military ties around the region, including with its former enemy the United States, which remains the most powerful military presence in Asia.

All had representatives in the audience, which also included the 10 nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Russia and the European Union.

Mr Yang spoke extensively of Beijing's support for integration across East Asia under the banner of Asean. He also noted progress on ridding North Korea of its nuclear weapons, and Beijing's improved ties with Japan and South Korea. 'We have consistently acted in the spirit of setting aside differences to expand common ground, and called for seeking peaceful and negotiated solutions to historical issues and disputes,' he said.

'Upholding and sustaining the hard-won peace in the Asia-Pacific region is an issue of critical concern to all of us.'

The region still faced many challenges involving security and acute imbalances in development, he added, urging countries to work more closely together.

A joint statement from foreign ministers last night after the final day of talks warned that the challenges across the Asia-Pacific were growing more complex and deeper regional efforts were needed.

It reiterated Asean's call this week for humanitarian issues in North Korea to be addressed as part of denuclearisation efforts.

It also called for a faster pace of democracy in Myanmar and the release of political prisoners by its military junta.

Both isolated states had ministers at meetings - one of the few international outings for either nation.

'The ministers expressed concern on the pace of the national reconciliation process and urged Myanmar to show tangible progress that would lead to a peaceful transition to democracy in the near future,' the statement said.

They also called for moves towards a more formal Code of Conduct to prevent tensions in the disputed South China Sea, where the Spratly Islands are claimed in whole by China, Vietnam and Taiwan, and in part by Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei.

The forum is an annual event now in its 14th year. Although described from both inside and out as a toothless talking-shop, diplomats stress that it is the only security body in the region.

'Just getting such a diverse group in one place has its benefits, even if concrete progress is never really achieved ... at least it keeps countries talking to each other,' one veteran Asian envoy said.