Chinese defense official calls for efforts to avoid conflict at sea

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A Chinese defense official on Saturday at the 18th Shangri-La Dialogue called for reducing and avoiding close military activities at sea that are viewed by the other side as unfriendly or even hostile.

"This is the most direct and effective way to avoid conflict at sea," said Senior Colonel Zhou Bo, director of the Center for Security Cooperation at the Office for International Military Cooperation of the Chinese Defense Ministry.

Zhou said that most of the existing rules are arrangements for accidental encounters, but tactical arrangements work best when both sides have a strategic consensus that they do not engage in conflict and do not confront each other.

As the world's largest trading and exporting country, China attaches great importance to maritime security, and its initiative to jointly build the 21st century Maritime Silk Road is aimed at promoting maritime connectivity and practical cooperation in various fields, as well as promoting common security through economic development, said Zhou.

Zhou added that due to the smooth progress of negotiations on the code of conduct in the South China Sea between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the situation in the region has calmed down significantly.

However, some countries outside the South China Sea have obviously violated their commitments of not taking a position on the South China Sea issue, and have openly increased their involvement in the South China Sea, thus significantly increasing instability in the South China Sea, said the Chinese official.

China is committed to working with other countries to safeguard maritime security, said Zhou, adding that China's consultations, dialogues and cooperation with other countries have played a positive role in promoting maritime security and avoiding maritime incidents and conflicts.

He also called for cooperation between China and the United States to seek common ground while shelving differences on the principles of freedom of navigation.

One side should not impose its own unilateral interpretation on the other side, and even send military vessels or aircrafts to conduct dangerous military activities in the other side's territorial waters and exclusive economic zone on the pretext of "freedom of navigation," he said.

The 18th Shangri-La Dialogue, officially known as the Asia Security Summit, opened Friday with participants discussing the security situation and its challenges in the Asia-Pacific region. The dialogue has been held by the British think tank International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Singaporean government annually since 2002. 

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