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China at centre of peaceful Asia

world Updated: Mar 05, 2013 00:07 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Blaming Japan for the standoff in the East China Sea over the ownership of disputed islands, China said on Monday that its defensive and peaceful military policies had contributed to peace and stability in Asia.

Addressing a press conference ahead of the inauguration of the first session of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's Parliament, spokesperson, Fu Ying, played down the country's increasing defence budget.

"China's peaceful foreign policies and its defensive military policies are conducive to security and peace of Asia," Fu, vice-foreign minister and the first ever woman NPC spokersperson, told reporters.

China has increased its defence spending in the recent budgets taking it to over USD 106.4 billion last year, which is far above India's this year's defence budget of $37.4 billion but far less than that of the United States' defence budget.

Communist Party of China (CPC) general secretary, Xi Jinping, willbe appointed president at the end of the Congress, expected to run for about 10 days. And the 2,987 NPC delegates are also virtually certain to approve another rise in military spending.

"We in China have endured the grievous lessons of having a weak national defense and suffering bullying by others," Fu said, adding: "The Chinese people have deep historical memories of this problem, and so we need solid national defence."

On Japan, Fu said China was willing to resolve disputes through negotiations.

However, "one hand alone can't clap," Fu said, quoting a Chinese proverb to indicate that Japan has failed to engage in negotiations.

She said the Japanese government's move to "purchase" part of the Diaoyu Islands - which Japan calls Senkaku -- last year went against the consensus reached by the two countries, which in turn shook China's basis for maintaining restraint.

"That's the reason why China sent patrol vessels to the Diaoyu Islands area," she said.

"If the other party chooses to take tougher measures and abandon consensus, 'it is impolite not to reciprocate,' as another Chinese proverb says," she said.

The disputes over the Diaoyu Islands, which were triggered by Japan last year and have not been handled well by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's administration, have become the biggest challenge in improving China-Japan relations.

"We wish Japanese society and all sides could listen attentively to the voice of the Chinese people and put what happened in the past and what is happening now in perspective, so the two countries find a basis for the dialogue," said Fu.