Mon, May 16, 2011 - Page 3 News List

MND welcomes PLA ‘openness’

‘EXCESSIVE INTERPRETATION’:Chinese academics said that a regularly scheduled, monthly press conference on the Chinese military would help to defuse skepticism

By J. Michael Cole  /  Staff Reporter

Taiwanese defense officials said Taipei was “optimistic” about a recent announcement by the Chinese Ministry of National Defense that it would hold a regular press conference every month, a British defense publication reported on Friday.

Touted as a bid to enhance openness and communication regarding the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with the rest of the world, the press conferences will be held on the final Wednesday afternoon of every month, Chinese media have said.

Either ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng (耿雁生) or Information Affairs Office Deputy Director Yang Yujun (楊宇軍) will reportedly host the monthly event.

The Chinese military’s first-ever official regular press conference was held on April 27, during which a visit by Chinese Chief of General Staff Chen Bingde (陳炳德) to the US from yesterday to next Sunday was confirmed.

Xinhua news agency quoted Geng as saying on April 27 that the regular press conferences would “spread important information about China’s national defense and military buildup in a timely matter and help the world better understand China’s armed forces.”

The PLA’s lack of transparency and Beijing’s defense spending has led to a chorus of accusations by Washington and regional powers, such as Japan. This failure to communicate capabilities and intent, officials have said, enhances uncertainty and increases the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation.

The “surprise” unveiling in January of China’s first fifth-generation J-20 stealth fighter hours before US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) in Beijing, as well as signs last year of greater assertiveness by the PLA on Chinese claims to the South China Sea, have contributed to calls on Beijing to be more transparent regarding military matters.

Chinese academics said following the press meeting last month that the regular press conference would help defuse skepticism and “excessive interpretation” of China’s military.

In an article on the subject on Friday, British defense magazine Jane’s Defence Weekly quoted Ministry of National Defense (MND) spokesman Lo Shao-ho (羅紹和) as saying that the ministry was “optimistic about the impact of the press conferences on PLA transparency.”

The article also quoted a spokeswoman at the Pentagon as saying that Washington welcomed the move toward greater transparency.

“Substantive and continuous engagement fosters greater understanding and promotes the healthy, stable and reliable development of the military-to-military relationship,” she said.

However, Jane’s quoted the Pentagon spokeswoman as saying that concerns remained over the lack of transparency in terms of China’s strategic intentions, decision-making and emerging military capabilities, such as anti-access and area denial systems.

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