Military ties among member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) are not designed to target any country, said a senior Foreign Ministry official yesterday.
At a press conference ahead of Thursday's SCO summit in Shanghai, during which defense and military cooperation are expected to be major topics of discussion, Li Hui, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, said defense cooperation was aimed at safeguarding regional stability, not intimidating other nations.
Li, who is in charge of Euro-Asian affairs, said holding regular anti-terrorism exercises was part of the security and defense cooperation mechanism of the SCO.
The organization, founded in 2001, will hold joint anti-terrorism exercises next year in the Volga-Ural military district of Russia.
The drills will be the first to involve all six SCO member countries China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
"Such co-operation is strictly in line with the SCO's nature as a non-aligned organization which neither promotes confrontation nor targets any third country or organization," Li stressed.
"Any further military cooperation among SCO member states is only meant to safeguard security, stability and peace in the region."
Li said staging regular joint military exercises grew from the common aspiration of SCO members to fight the three evil forces of terrorism, secessionism and extremism, as well as maintaining regional security.
"Only through strengthening military cooperation and supporting one another can SCO members jointly deal with the emerging threats and challenges posed by terrorism," Li added.
Although most foreign journalists' questions focused on the Iranian nuclear program, the senior official declined to specify if the sensitive issue is on the summit agenda.
Iran, Mongolia, India and Pakistan have observer status with the SCO. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will therefore attend the summit and is expected to deliver a speech.
"Heads of state from all the SCO members and observers will exchange views about issues and their own interests at the summit," Li told reporters.
"But I cannot predict exactly what issues will be covered."
He did however go on to stress that the speech to be made by President Ahmadinejad at the SCO summit meeting "will represent only the stance of Iran".
Ahmadinejad's participation at the summit is significant because it comes at a time when Iran is considering an international plan to deal with a standoff over its nuclear program. The plan was drawn up by Britain, France and Germany, and approved by the United States, China and Russia.
If Iran rejects the plan, which includes both incentives and penalties, the Western powers have threatened to push for UN-backed sanctions.
Li also said SCO member states will strengthen cooperation with Afghanistan, whose President Hamid Karzai will attend the summit as a guest, to fight drug trafficking under the framework of SCO-Afghanistan liaison group.
"Afghanistan has become a major source of drugs," Li said.
He added that all the SCO member states are major victims of drug crime, which not only threatens regional peace and stability but also generates cash for terrorist and extremist groups.
"The SCO is willing to actively join international efforts to build an anti-drug belt around Afghanistan," he said.
(China Daily June 13, 2006)