(The following English text of the press conference is for reference. In case of any divergence of interpretations, the Chinese text shall prevail.)
Senior Colonel Yang Yujun: Friends from the media, good afternoon! Welcome to this month’s regular press conference of the Ministry of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) . I have noticed there are many friends here today, including faculty staff and cadets from the Logistical Academy of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Welcome!
First of all, I’d like to release a piece of information which was asked by journalists on different occasions and that is the PLA will join the “International Army Games-2017” and host six events among all the competition programs.
In recent years, the Chinese military participated for three consecutive times in the International Army Games hosted by Russia, which has played a positive role in promoting friendship and exchanges in the field of training with other participating militaries including that of Russia, and in enhancing real combat capability.
The “International Army Games-2017” will be held from July 29 to August 12 this year. After consultations with the Russian side, the Chinese PLA will hold six competitions including the “Suvorov Attack” for infantry fighting vehicle units, the “Clear Sky” for air defense units, the “Safe Environment” for nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) detection units and the “Gunsmith Master” for weapon maintenance at the Korla training base in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region; the “Aviadarts” held at the airports of Shuangliao, Siping, Changchun and the firing range of Taipingchuan in Jilin Province; the “Airborne Platoon” held at the training base in Haodian, Guangshui of Hubei Province.
Besides, the PLA will send troops abroad for nine competitions including those held in Russia named “Tank Biathlon” for tank units, the “Army Scout Masters” for reconnaissance units, the “Elbrus Ring” for mountainous infantry units, the “Maintenance Battalion” for tank repairing units, the “Sea Cup” for ships, the “Seaborne Assault” for marine units, and the “Keys to the Sky” for ground-to-air missile units. Besides, there will be a competition named “Sniper Frontier” for snipers and a competition for Unnamed Aerial Vehicle (UAV) crews held in Kazakhstan.
Now the floor is open for questions.
Question: In recent days, 84 corps-level units have been formed as the Chinese military further adjusted. What will be the change in the ratio between different services and arms and what impact it will have on the fighting capacity? It is also reported that there will be new designations for the newly formed Army corps. Would you please brief us more on the adjustment and reform of the corps-level units? Zhang Zheng, former captain of CNS Liaoning is among the chiefs of the units. Could you please tell us the unit he serves as the chief military officer? Is the unit related to the development of aircraft carrier?
In the early morning of April 26, the US and ROK moved parts of the THAAD system to the site of its deployment. On the same day, China and Russia held the third news briefing on the missile defense issue. The spokesperson for Ministry of National Defense said that the PLA opposes the deployment of the THAAD system and it is not just empty talk. Do you have any new information for us? As the US and ROK insist on deploying the THAAD system, what impact will it have on regional security and the joint efforts by relevant parties to cope with the North Korean nuclear issue?
Answer: I think you’ve almost covered all the hot issues today. Your first question can be divided into three sub-questions. The first one is the adjustment and formation of the 84 corps-level units across the PLA. The formation of these 84 newly formed corps-level units is an important part of the military reform regarding its size, structure and the composition. After the adjustment, the new type fighting force is strengthened and the new type fighting capacity is raised as the troops composition further enriched, which makes them better integrated into the joint operational system.
The second sub-question is about the adjustment and formation of the Army corps. The Central Military Commission ( CMC ) decides to adjust and form 13 Army corps based on the previous 18 ones with new designations as PLA Army 71st, 72nd, 73rd, 74th ,75th, 76th, 77th, 78th, 79th, 80th, 81st, 82nd and 83rd Corps. This is an overall reshaping of the Army mobile operational forces. It is a critical step forward in building a strong and modern new-type army and is of great significance in transforming the Chinese military from featuring quantity and scale to featuring quality and effectiveness.
The third-sub question is about Comrade Zhang Zheng. He is a naval officer with rich experience. He used to be the captain of the first Chinese aircraft carrier CNS Liaoning and successfully completed many important tasks. He has been promoted to deputy corps-level and we believe he will make greater contributions with his new post.
Your second question is about the formal deployment of the THAAD system. Right now, the situation in the Korean Peninsula is complicated and sensitive. For the overall benefit of the regional peace and stability, the Chinese side has done a lot in a constructive manner to promote peace and dialogue. The deployment of the THAAD system in the ROK damages regional strategic balance and stability, which the Chinese side firmly opposes. The Chinese side will continue to conduct specific exercise and training, and continue with the operational tests of new equipment and weapons, resolutely safeguarding national security and regional peace and stability.
Question: We’ve noticed that Gen. Fang Fenghui, Chief of the Joint Staff Department of CMC, as the representative of Chinese military, participated in relevant activities during the meeting between the heads of state of China and the United States. So, there is comment that the military-to-military relationship is playing an increasingly more significant role in the Sino-American relations. How do you comment on this? How do the two militaries implement the consensus reached between the two heads of state?
Answer: I will answer the two questions together. On April 6 and 7, President Xi Jinping had a summit meeting with President Trump at the Mar-a-Largo resort in Florida and reached a series of important consensus, which enlightens the way forward for the development of relations between the two countries in the long run, and draws a blueprint for the development of the military-to-military relationship. As a delegation member, Gen. Fang Fenghui, Chief of the Joint Staff Department of CMC, participated in relevant activities.
As pointed out by President Xi, the bilateral military relationship is an important part of China-US relations and the mutual trust in the fields of military and security is the basis of strategic mutual trust between China and the United States. The Chinese military will unswervingly implement the important consensus reached between the heads of states of the two countries by keeping exchanges at all levels, bringing dialogue and consultation mechanisms into full play, carrying out the items of annual exchanges and cooperation, and making good use of while enriching the two major confidence building mechanisms.
So for the following step, we are willing to join hands with the U.S. side in managing risks and dealing with differences in a constructive manner, to continuously enhance mutual trust between the two militaries and to achieve further progress in the military-to-military relations in the new situation. It is hoped that the U.S. side will make joint efforts towards same direction with the Chinese side, adding more positive element and essence to the state-to-state relations and contributing more positive energy to the global and regional peace and stability.
There is an old saying in China that a thousand-mile journey takes every short step. We hope that between the two militaries, the mutual trust can be accumulated with step by step forward, the differences and risks can be managed by proper settlement, and the thousand-mile journey can be reached through win-win cooperation.
Question: I have a question about China’s new aircraft carrier. Chinese media reports that China needs a total of about six aircraft carriers and that is the plan for its building. Chinese media also says that China needs to build military bases around the world to support the future operations of its aircraft carriers. So can you tell us how many aircraft carriers the Ministry of National Defense believes China needs to defend and to protect its maritime interests? And what plans China has to build military bases around the world to support the operations of the Chinese aircraft carriers? Thank you.
Answer: About the future development of Chinese aircraft carriers, the related departments of China will take all elements into consideration and make an overall plan.
The second question is about the construction of aircraft carrier bases. The main offshore support facilities for aircraft carriers include the home ports for aircraft carriers, the airfields for aircrafts and the training and supporting facilities. They are the main facilities supporting the aircraft carrier troops to carry out daily activities. As to the building of related offshore support facilities, we will make an overall plan according to mission needs.
You just mentioned that naval bases should be built all over the world because China has aircraft carriers. I think you think too much.
Question: We have noticed from the Internet that netizens have voted for the name of the newly-launched aircraft carrier of China. Some would name it CNS Taiwan while for some others CNS Shandong. Is its name determined or not? My second question: There are comments by experts that with the launching of the aircraft carrier, the situation across the Straits is changed. When the first aircraft carrier CNS Liaoning broke through the first island chain and took a circle around the Taiwan Island, it drew great attention from the island. So for the future training of the Chinese aircraft carriers, whether taking circles around Taiwan will be a routine? For the third aircraft carrier, what is its building progress?
Answer: For your first question about the voting for the name of China’s newly-launched aircraft carrier on the Internet, actually this is done by the netizens themselves, as I noticed the name of “Pipi Shrimp” (nickname of Mantis Shrimp, popularly used among Chinese netizens) is also one popular option in the voting. According to the Chinese military’s rules, the name for a new ship will be determined when it is handed over and commissioned.
For your second question, the training area of aircraft carriers is determined by the situation and mission needs.
When it comes to the development of other aircraft carriers, as I said just now, the relevant departments will take into different elements into considerations and make an overall planning.
Question: According to media report, as disclosed by the Central Military District of Russia, a PLA delegation will pay it a visit in the end of April and exchange ideas on the experience in operations and training. At the same time, we have noticed that within one month, the militaries of China and Russia held two news briefings on the missile defense issue. May I ask whether the enhanced practical exchanges between the Chinese and Russian militaries is related to the current international and regional security situation?
Answer: The relationship between the Chinese and Russian militaries shows the high level strategic mutual trust and strategic coordination. It is also a symbol of the determination by the two countries to commonly cope with the new threats and challenges and commonly maintain regional security and stability.
In recent years, the two sides have always given their priority to develop the military relations with the other side when conducting international military cooperation. In the past four month in this year, the two militaries held two joint news briefings on the issues of missile defense and kept close communication over the “Joint Sea 2017” exercises and the “International Army Games 2017” among other issues. Right in this afternoon of Moscow time, the two militaries will hold their 19th round of strategic consultation in Russia. You just mentioned that one Chinese military delegation will visit Russia. Actually, this is a young military officer delegation visiting the Central Military District of Russia from April 24 to May 1, during which the delegation will visit related troops and exchange ideas over the command in joint operations and the training and administration of troops among other topics. The purpose of this visit is to further enhance the mutual understanding and trust between young military offices of the two armed forces and lay more foundation in human contact for the continuous development of the relationship between the two armed forces in the long term.
It is fair to say that the China-Russia mil-to-mil relationship is featured by height, width, depth and accuracy and we are willing to make joint efforts with the Russian side to continuously push forward our mil-to-mil relationship and to make more positive contribution in maintaining the common interests of the two countries and maintaining peace and stability of the region and the world.
Question: Ever since he assumed the position, Mr. Mattis, the US Defense Secretary, has visited many countries in the Asia-Pacific region. I want to know whether China is planning to invite him to visit China this year?
Answer: During recent years, we kept friendly exchanges at the senior level between the heads of defense establishments and militaries of China and the US. We welcome Defense Secretary Mattis and other military leaders of the US, to visit China at an early date when mutually convenient.
Question: Influenced by the tension on the Korean Peninsula, there are many reports like the Chinese side has strengthened its military presence in the border areas and the war preparation of PLA Northern Theater Command is at level-I or level-II. Could you please confirm? Under the background of possible North Korean nuclear test and the higher possibility of conflict between the DPRK and the United States, what counter measures will the Chinese military take in northeast China?
Answer: I think you may not have paid enough attention to our official Weibo and WeChat account; otherwise, you should have noticed we have already clarified the report of PLA greatly strengthening its deployment in the China-North Korea border area. These reports are not true.
The second question is a hypothetical one, and I’d rather not give any response.
Question: The reform of the military academies and scientific research institutes of the PLA has been launched. Would you please give us some information? The second question is about the missile defense system. Could you please give us more details about the news briefing by the Chinese and Russian militaries on the missile defense system and the deployment of the THAAD?
Answer: About your first question, the reform of military academies, research institutes and training institutes is mainly to meet the requirement of the new leading and commanding system and new size and structure (of PLA). It is battlefield, troops and future oriented.
By reshaping a system cultivating new type military talents and a system of military scientific research with the PLA characteristics, it aims at providing talent, theoretical and technical support to build a world-class military. Currently, the reform in this field is pressing ahead as scheduled and we will release relevant information in due time based on the reform process.
About your second question, in the afternoon of April 26 of Moscow time, the Chinese and Russian militaries held a joint news briefing on the global and regional missile defense situation during the Moscow International Security Conference. It’s the third one on the missile defense issue since last year. For the details about the news briefing, you can refer to the official Weibo and WeChat accounts of the Chinese Ministry of National Defense. I’d rather not waste you more time.
Question: According to the Yonhap News Agency, the US military stationed in ROK has begun locating the THAAD system in the Seongju golf course in the early morning of April 26, local time. As disclosed by the ROK military, the equipment transported this time included mobile launchers and X-band radar and so forth, which means the THAAD system will formally be put into use. Based on your previous answers, do you have any more details?
Answer: I have addressed this issue just now, the Chinese side has always firmly opposed to the deployment of the THAAD system in the ROK.. The Chinese military will continue to conduct specific exercises and training under the background of real combat, and continue with operational test of new weapons and equipment, so as to resolutely safeguard national security and regional peace and stability.
Question: Since April, the Chinese naval escort taskforce has successively rescued two foreign cargo ships hijacked by pirates. Can we say that the piracy activities in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia are resurging strongly? Can you brief us what the Chinese naval escort taskforces have done to deal with such situation?
Answer: You have raised a very good question. In December of 2008, as authorized by the United Nations (UN), the Chinese PLA Navy dispatched the first naval taskforce to the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia to perform the escort mission. So far, China has successively dispatched 26 batches of escort taskforces and escorted over 6,000 foreign and Chinese ships, half of which are of foreign origin or belong to the World Food Program (WFP).
As you mentioned just now, this year, a strong rebound of piracy activities has been witnessed with a large increase of attack in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia. On April 9, the Chinese guided missile frigate Yulin rescued a Tuvaluan cargo ship hijacked by pirates and ensured the safety of the 19 crew members. On April 15, the Chinese guided missile frigate Hengyang verified and expelled pirate suspects and successfully rescued a Panamanian ship.
As what we observe for the moment, the pirate threats in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia can not be eliminated in a short term, thus the escort mission will be a long term task for the Chinese PLA Navy.
The Chinese side will keep a constant deployment and make more contribution to maintain regional peace and stability, and secure the security of important Sea Lines Of Communication (SLOCs).
Question: President Xi raised the idea of enhancing the sense of honor of the military servicepersons. We’ve noticed that the green channels at the airports of Zhengzhou, Chengdu and Beijing were opened one after another this year. Can you give us more details? And when will the green channels available at all airports across the country? My second question is about China’s second aircraft carrier. The Chinese people were thrilled by the launching ceremony yesterday for the second aircraft carrier. Compared with CNS Liaoning, what were the technical difficulties and breakthroughs in the process of independent R＆D of the second aircraft carrier? As we have seen the comments by mainstream media and experts these days, what authentic interpretation can we get from the Ministry of National Defense?
Answer: As learned from relevant departments, the Logistical Support Department of CMC is coordinating with the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to advance as scheduled the work of opening green channels for military servicepersons based on law. This is a part of important effort to implement the important instruction by President Xi on building a system in which the sense of honor of military servicepersons is further strengthened. It is also a good thing as civil-military collaboration to better support and serve the military. This is also a concrete step taken by the CAAC to implement relevant national law and regulation in protecting the rights of military servicepersons and to serve the military with sincerity and affection. It can be said that this measure is welcomed and well-received by the military servicepersons and their families.
For the second question: yesterday, the second aircraft carrier of China was undocked and launched. It has been independently designed and built by China to the full extent. In designing and building it, much experience from the scientific tests and training of CNS Liaoning was absorbed with much improvement and perfection in many aspects.
Question: According to Taiwan media, while the Chinese mainland launched its second aircraft carrier, Li Ximing, who will take over the position of “Chief of General Staff” of Taiwan, confirmed in the morning of April 26 at the “Legislative Yuan” of Taiwan that two second-hand Perry-Class frigates purchased by Taiwan from the United States would arrive together in Taiwan in May, and the two frigates will be equipped with Hsiung Feng III anti-ship missiles. He said these missiles must be very good and someone else care about them very much. Who do you think will care? How will you comment on this?
Answer: I have two points to make on this issue. The first one is we have always been firmly opposed to any country’s selling arms to Taiwan. The second one is that any attempt to deny unification by force is doomed to fail.
Question: This year marks the 90th anniversary of the founding of the PLA. Will there be a military parade? Do you have any information on the relevant preparation?
Answer: About this question, my colleague had made news release during last month’s regular press conference. So far, I have no further information to offer.
Question: Taiwanese officials said that they would like to see Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter aircraft included as part of the next US arms sale package to Taiwan, do you have any comment on this? If they were included, what will be the potential impact on the US-China relations?
Answer: For the questions in this category, I have just mentioned that we have always resolutely opposed any country which sells arms to Taiwan.
Question: Yesterday, we saw the launching of the second Chinese aircraft carrier and foreign media comments that this makes Chinese people elated and inspired. But whenever there was any move by Japan in military expansion, China always expressed concern and vigilance. Is this double-standard by China? What is your response?
Secondly, I remember that when the designations of the 18 PLA Army corps were released, the total manpower of PLA troops was also disclosed. So, for the moment, does the Chinese side have any plan to tell the outside the overall strength of PLA?
Thirdly, you just mentioned that the Chinese side hopes China and the United States can move towards the same direction and achieve win-win cooperation. But just on April 26, Harris, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), said in the House of Representatives hearing that right now the PLA is modernizing too fast and it goes beyond the purpose of defense. This has undermined the US role in the region. What is your comment?
Answer: Firstly, I want to make it clear that China is not applying double standard and China is not the only country that keeps vigilance on Japan’s military expansion. I think the reasons can be summarized into two “looks”. One is to look at the history. In history, Japan launched war of aggression and caused great disaster to the people in the Asia-Pacific countries. The second is to look at today. The Japanese Administration does not self reflect on the history, but on the contrary, it drives the car backwards.
For example, on April 21, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered sacrifices again to the Yasukuni Shrine and senior cabinet officials and members of the Diet paid their visit; on April 17, according to the Japanese media, a new batch of archives record the fact of forcefully enlisting comfort women by the Japanese military in World War II were submitted by the National Archives of Japan, but Japanese government official chose to keep a blind eye to and flatly denied this fact; on April 14, the Japanese acted in defiance of the whole world by astonishingly giving consent publicly to introduce the book of Adolf Hitler’s My Struggle into textbook.
Actually, these are just some examples. The fact that so many accidents happened in only a week fully proves that there are problems in the perception of history of the Japanese side. Japan is reluctant to face history while it is eager to expand its military. Therefore, people have every reason to worry about what path Japan will take. How it will lead the young generation in Japan to the future? Will it follow the old path of militarism? Will it again infringe upon the peace and freedom of other countries in future? I think the Japanese side should have a deep reflection on this issue and the international community should keep a high vigilance.
The second question is about the total strength of the PLA. Actually, as early as September 3, 2015, President Xi Jinping has already said that China would cut the number of its troops by 300,000 at the Commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Victory of the Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War. The total number of the Chinese troops in the past was 2.3 million. It is a simple math problem for you to figure out how many are left.
On your third question, we have noticed the related media reports. Few officials on the American side make irresponsible comments on China. Their comments are nothing new and are not worth refuting.
Question: On the Navy Day of the PLA, the official Weibo and WeChat account of MOD released a picture to celebrate the Navy’s birthday, but on the illustrate picture there are American ships and Russian planes. As far as I know, these pictures have not been deleted so far. What is your response?
Answer: Firstly, I hope you can tell the others that you are not our secret agent, because I prepared to answer this question at the end of today’s press conference, but as you asked, I’d like to answer it now. First of all we want to say thanks for the great attention paid by you and the military fans. We also noticed this problem as you mentioned. We were not meticulous enough in selecting the image and were criticized by the netizens. The carelessness was with the editor but the responsibility is on the shoulders of the leadership. On this occasion, I, on behalf of our editor team, would like to express our sincere apology and heartfelt gratitude for all those fans who follow us, who pay attention to us and who support us.
Some friends indeed suggested that we should delete the picture quickly or shut down the comment function on the page, but we think the criticism comes from the great care and love. Criticism of the friends on the Internet is more of care and support to us. So we prefer to leave picture and comments there so they can always remind us that only when we continuously make progress can we better serve our fans and the military fans. The official accounts of MND Weibo and WeChat have made progress only because of you. We have been working hard and we will work even harder.
That’s all of today’s press conference. Thank you very much! See you next month.