China envoy: We won't engage in arms race

Posted at 11/17/12 1:04 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Chinese Ambassador  to the Philippines Ma Keqing on Friday disputed three various scenarios painting China as an aggressive military power, saying that the country places peace, development and cooperation among its priorities.

Addressing a forum at the De La Salle University - Manila, Ma  understands that its continued development and economic growth also hinge on "growing interdependence" in a "global village of shared destinies."

Ma gave the talk two days after Xi Jinping became China's leader.  Tensions between the Philippines and China have lingered over disputes in a number of territories in the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea.

Despite this, the diplomat said tensions have eased between the two countries. China has also already allowed the import of bananas from the Philippines.

Chito Sta. Romana, the former Beijing bureau chief of ABC news, noted that following the leadership change in China, what caught the western media's attention the most was Beijing's statement that China "should enhance [its] capacity for exploiting marines resources, resolutely safeguard China's martime rights and interests, and build China into a maritime power."

Although China has overtaken Japan as the world's second-largest economy, its per capital income is ranked 90th in the world, even behind African countries such as Namibia and Botswana.

Ma said China has to feed 20 percent of the world's population, but only holds 7.9 percent of the world's farmlands and 6.5 percent of the world's fresh water. One in 10 Chinese is also living under $1 per day, while 10 million residents in China have yet to get access to electricity.

"China's foreign policy is largely aimed at fostering a peaceful, stable and cooperative external environment," Ma said.

As for building its military capability, Ma said China has the "legitimate right" and "security interest" in protecting its sovereignty as well as confronting both traditional and non-traditional security issues.

"We will not engage with arms race [and China]... does not pose military threat to any nation," she said.

The Philippines has been seeking to resolve the territorial dispute under the International Tribunal of the Law of the Seas, or the court created under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, while China wants a bilateral solution on the row.