China's Admiral Sun Jianguo calls for 'fair' stance on South China Sea on sidelines of Shangri-La Dialogue

Admiral Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of the Joint Staff Department of China's Central Military Commission, speaks during the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue, on May 31, 2015.
Admiral Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of the Joint Staff Department of China's Central Military Commission, speaks during the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue, on May 31, 2015.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE -A senior Chinese defence official urged Australia to take a "fair and objective" stance on the South China Sea issue during a meeting on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue on Friday (June 3).

"China has maintained a consistent and clear policy on the South China Sea issue and we wish the Australian side to take a fair and objective stance," said Admiral Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of the Joint Staff Department of China's Central Military Commission, at his meeting with Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, chief of the Australian Defence Force, Xinhua news agency reported.

Adm Sun noted that China and Australia have built a closer military relationship over the past several years, Xinhua said.

"There have been more high-level reciprocal visits, joint training courses and in-depth institutional communication," said Adm Sun.

He hailed Australia's efforts in the multinational search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which went missing while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board.

ACM Binskin, during the meeting, said the two countries had enjoyed smooth and pragmatic military cooperation recently, including the completion of a number of joint military drills. He expressed wishes to boost dialogue and communication between the two sides, saying he is looking forward to his visit to China later this year.

The 15th Shangri-La Dialogue, an Asia-Pacific defence and security summit organised by London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), kicks off on Friday with at least 20 defence ministers from over 30 countries in attendance.

Rising tension among China, Vietnam and the Philippines over their overlapping territorial claims to the South China Sea is expected to dominate the three-day forum.

In more bilateral meetings ahead of the forum, Adm Sun met separately with Vietnam’s Deputy Defence Minister Nguyen Chi Yong New Zealand's Defence Minister Gerry Brownless, Xinhua reported.

Sun was cited by the report as saying he hopes that China and Vietnam can step up high-level exchanges, enhance strategic trust, boost cooperation in various sectors, including cooperation under the framework of United Nations peacekeeping missions.  

Mr Yong welcomed the Chinese side to conduct humanitarian rescue exercises with Vietnam on the sea and strengthen cooperation between coast guard forces of the two countries, Xinhua said.