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China 'will not take the first shot,' seeks to resolve sea disputes

China 'will not take the first shot,' seeks to resolve sea disputes
Jul 30 2019

MANILA -- China is building its military for self-defense and "will not take the first shot" as it seeks to resolve disputes with fellow claimants in the South China Sea, its envoy to the Philippines said late Monday.

Beijing will "never seek hegemony or never establish spheres of influence" no matter how strong it becomes, Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said during a dinner reception for the 92nd anniversary of the People's Liberation Army.

China has built artificial islands over disputed reefs and outcrops in resource-rich waters, including those claimed by the Philippines, sparking international concern.

"China adopts a military strategy of active defense which adheres to the principle of defense, self-defense and post-strike response. Meaning we will not take the first shot," Zhao said. His remarks were posted on the embassy's official Facebook page.

Acknowledging concern over freedom of navigation and overflight, Zhao said China could suffer should it be "disrupted or even blocked by someone" since 75 percent of food traded to and from China pass through the South China Sea.

"China will follow the path of peaceful development. This is a commitment to the people of China and to the world, and this has been written into the Constitution of China," he said.

In June, a Chinese vessel rammed a Filipino fishing boat and its crew was accused of deserting 22 Filipino fishermen at sea after their ship sank near Reed Bank (Recto Bank). This sparked a fresh diplomatic row between Manila and Beijing.

A verbal agreement between President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping, which was struck after the alleged ramming, came under close scrutiny.