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Remarks by Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Kunsheng at the ARF Seminar on Sea Lines of Communications Security

2014/12/08

Respected Gen. Liu Yazhou, Political Commissar of Chinese National Defence University of the People's Liberation Army,
Respected Indonesian Co-Chair, Major General Syaiful Anwar, Dean of Department of Strategic Studies of Indonesian Defense University,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

I am pleased to attend the ARF Seminar on Sea Lines of Communications (SLOCs) Security. On behalf of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, I wish to extend a warm welcome to all the distinguished guests present today, and express appreciation to our co-chair, Indonesia, for its strong support for this workshop. I also want to thank the Chinese National Defence University for the great deal of work it has done to put this workshop together.

The sea is the cradle of life and a treasure house of resources. It is essential for the survival and development of mankind. Today, over half of global trade relies on maritime transport, and around half of the oil is shipped at sea. The Asia-Pacific region, with rapid economic growth, ever intensifying regional economic integration and robust trade, has become an important engine driving world economic development. This is proof in itself that our region's SLOCs are smooth, and security ensured.

On the other hand, threats to regional SLOCs security have become more diversified. Traditional security issues are still there. And geopolitical threats and increased military activities at sea have exerted direct impacts on SLOCs security. Non-traditional security threats are also on the rise. Natural disasters, piracy, and transnational organized crime, among others, have become more acute. Oil spills, shipwrecks and other maritime emergencies take place from time to time. According to International Maritime Bureau (IMB) statistics, the number of pirate attacks on southeast Asian waters accounts for more than half of the world's total, with six oil tankers or cargo ships abducted there in the first half of this year.

Moreover, the continued growth of international maritime transport has put increased pressure on some of the most important SLOCs. Take the Straits of Malacca as an example. It is estimated that as many as 140,000 vessels will have passed this sea lane by 2020, putting even greater strain on this extremely busy sea lane. Problems in the region like outdated navigation facilities, poor information sharing and inadequate capabilities of maritime emergency response have only become more serious.

Ladies and gentlemen, Dear friends,

SLOCs provide the main channel for China's foreign trade and energy import. Maritime transport accounts for as much as 90% of our trade, and six of the top ten container ports in the world are in China.

China attaches great importance to maintaining SLOCs security. It has all along worked actively for international and regional SLOCs security, and is committed to playing its role as a responsible major country in maintaining SLOCs security and to providing more public security products.

SLOCs security is the shared responsibility and obligation for countries in the region, and also converges the interests of all parties concerned. China is ready to work with other countries in the region to expand and innovate cooperation to maintain SLOCs security, deepen maritime security cooperation and provide stronger support for prosperity and stability in the region.

First, non-traditional security cooperation needs to be deepened. It is important that the parties foster the vision of cooperative security and common security, and focus on fighting piracy, terrorism at sea, and maritime and aeronautical search and rescue. Efforts could be made to increase pragmatic cooperation among armed forces, maritime law enforcement and maritime management agencies such as information sharing and joint exercise and joint training to enhance collaboration in response to non-traditional security threats.

Since the end of 2008, China has altogether dispatched 18 groups of naval ships to the Gulf of Aden and waters off the Somali coast for escort missions. Over 5,600 ships have enjoyed their protection, and half of them are foreign ones. The Chinese navy has also greatly improved coordination with its foreign counterparts.

China takes an active part in cooperation within the ReCAAP framework, and maintains close coordination and consultation with ASEAN members through the establishment of maritime consultation mechanisms.

To deepen regional search and rescue cooperation, China promoted the adoption of the Statement on Strengthening Coordination and Cooperation on Maritime and Aeronautical Search and Rescue at this year's ASEAN Regional Forum. It marks a helpful attempt to explore more effective modalities of search and rescue cooperation and coordination in the Asia-Pacific. China will continue to expand bilateral and multilateral cooperation with other regional countries to contribute even more significantly to managing non-traditional maritime security threats.

Second, capacity building for SLOCs security should be enhanced. The parties need to strengthen bilateral and multilateral dialogue and cooperation. Diversified training programs and workshops could be held to enhance experience sharing and mutual learning so as to steadily build up capabilities of regional countries to maintain smooth and safe SLOCs. As one of the main users of the Straits of Malacca, China has all along supported and actively engaged in the Cooperative Mechanism on Navigation Safety and Environmental Protection. We provide donations to the Aids to Navigation Fund every year, and technical and financial support to littoral states to help them set up tide, current and wind measurement systems.

Working in collaboration with the United States and relevant neighboring countries, China has held two workshops on maritime environment security within the ARF framework, and promoted the adoption at this year's ARF of the Statement on Cooperation in Prevention, Preparedness, Response and Restoration from Marine Oil Spill Incidents. As a follow-up, China plans to host the ARF Workshop on Emergency Management of Offshore Oil Spill next year to promote the establishment of an expert network on oil spill response. We hope it will build a new platform for cooperation on marine environmental protection capacity building.

Third, codes of conduct at sea should be improved. The parties need to enhance discussions at the ARF and other regional multilateral mechanisms about the code of conduct and crisis management at sea to build a stable and reliable institutional mechanism for SLOCs security. The new version of the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) was adopted at the Western Pacific Naval Symposium held in China this year. Chinese and US defence ministries recently signed the MOU on Notification of Major Military Activities Confidence-Building Measures Mechanism and the MOU on the Rules of Behavior for Safety of Air and Maritime Encounters, which are of great significance for ensuring navigation and sea lane security. In this context, China plans to host a seminar next year on management of maritime crisis to promote exchange and cooperation among the parties.

Fourth, maritime disputes should be properly handled to create an enabling political environment for better maritime security cooperation. Indeed, there are disputes in our region over territories and maritime rights and interests. But they have not affected the freedom and security of navigation, and the situation at sea is stable in general. This is primarily a result of the commitment of regional countries to properly settling their disputes through dialogue and consultation. China and ASEAN countries have maintained effective dialogue on the South China Sea issue, and made significant headway. We follow the "dual-track" approach, that is, disputes are to be resolved through negotiations by countries directly concerned while peace and stability in the South China Sea is maintained jointly by China and ASEAN countries. This is a realistic and effective way to properly handle the South China Sea issue. Parties remain committed to full and effective implementation of the DOC, and agree to conclude a COC based on consensus at an early date. "Early harvest" for the COC is being discussed, which includes the first document on commonalities, and joint maritime search and rescue hotline and senior officials' hotline for maritime emergencies. Facts have shown that China and ASEAN countries have the wisdom and capability to jointly maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.

Ladies and gentlemen, Dear friends,

As the most influential and inclusive multilateral mechanism for security dialogue and cooperation in the Asia-Pacific, ARF prioritizes maritime security cooperation and has generated remarkable results in this field. It is an important platform for regional countries to discuss and promote SLOCs security cooperation. Looking to the future, it is important that the parties give full play to the role of the forum and conduct more cooperation in more forms to make greater contribution to SLOCs security as well as prosperity and stability in the region.

On this note, may I wish this workshop a complete success.

Thank you.

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