Thứ Bảy, 31 tháng 5, 2014

Hagel Says China"s Actions in South China Sea Destabilizing

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel

today spelled out a series of Chinese actions in parts of the

disputed South China Sea and said they were destabilizing the


While China has said it wants a “sea of peace, friendship

and cooperation,” in recent months it “has undertaken

destabilizing, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the

South China Sea,” Hagel said in prepared remarks at an annual

security conference in Singapore.

“It has restricted access to the Scarborough Reef; put

pressure on the long-standing Philippine presence at the Second

Thomas Shoal; begun land reclamation activities at multiple

locations; and moved an oil rig into disputed waters near the

Paracel Islands” off the coast of Vietnam, Hagel said, listing

for the first time Chinese infractions in the region that are

alarming Southeast Asian nations.

The stepped-up U.S. comments follow Vietnamese Prime

Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s appeal for a “stronger voice” from

the U.S. against China after clashes between coast guard vessels

near the rig placed in contested waters. The Philippines,

dwarfed militarily by China, has sought support from the U.S.

and the United Nations to counter China’s encroachment into

shoals off its coast.

Under President Xi Jinping, China has taken a more

assertive approach to its territorial claims. During a visit to

Beijing in April, Hagel was told by his counterpart, General

Chang Wanquan, that China would make “no compromise, no

concessions” in disputes with Japan and the Philippines.

Standing alongside Hagel at a briefing last month, Chang

said “the Chinese military can assemble as soon as summoned,

fight any battle and win.” China can’t be contained, Chang

said, and the Pacific is “huge enough” to hold both countries.

International Order

In Singapore today, Hagel said the U.S. “will not look the

other way when fundamental principles of international order are

being challenged” including moves by China to restrict

overflight or freedom of navigation.

U.S.-China military ties have been tested after the U.S.

Justice Department indicted five Chinese military officials on

charges of economic espionage linked to computer hacking of U.S.

nuclear power, metals and solar companies. China has suspended

the U.S.-China Cyber Working Group.

Even so, “we will continue to raise cyber issues with our

Chinese counterparts, because dialogue is essential for reducing

the risk of miscalculation and escalation in cyberspace,” Hagel

said today.

Speaking yesterday at the Shangri-La security forum, former

Chinese deputy foreign minister Fu Ying said China and the U.S.

need to “work very hard to try to understand each other.”

Misread, Misunderstand

“There is a tendency that we misread each other, that we

misunderstand each other,” said Fu, chairwoman of the Foreign

Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress.

Taking questions after his speech today, Hagel was quizzed

by Major-General Yao Yunzhu, director of the Center for China-America Defense Relations at the Academy of Military Science

within the People’s Liberation Army, about the U.S. stance over

East China Sea islands claimed by both China and Japan. Yao

asked if recent U.S. statements about the islands being covered

by its defense treaty with Japan were a threat of coercion or


“I thought I made America’s position clear in my remarks

about the position we take on disputed territories,” Hagel

replied. “In fact, I think I repeated our position a number of


China’s Map

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has moved to toughen Japan’s

defense posture in the face of the territorial spat with China.

Abe has repeatedly accused China of trying to change the status

quo by force, and yesterday reiterated offers to Southeast Asian

allies of military equipment and training.

“Japan will offer its utmost support for the efforts of

the countries of Asean as they work to ensure the security of

the seas and the skies,” he said in a speech at the forum,

referring to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian


China claims much of the South China Sea under its “nine-dash line” map, first published in 1947, which extends hundreds

of miles south from China’s Hainan Island to equatorial waters

off the coast of Borneo, taking in some of the world’s busiest

shipping lanes. Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines also claim

parts of the sea.

‘No Victor’

Vietnam has prepared evidence for a lawsuit challenging

China’s claim and is considering the best time to file it, Dung

said yesterday in an interview.

If open conflict were to erupt in the South China Sea,

“there will be no victor,” Dung warned, saying that two-thirds

of global maritime trade passes through shipping lanes in the

area. “Everyone will lose,” he said. “The whole world economy

will be hurt and damaged immeasurably.”

Malaysia Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said he is

increasingly concerned about tensions in the waters.

“However, inflamed rhetoric and mutual recrimination will

not do any country any good,” he told the forum in Singapore.

World War 1, he said, “was started by sheer accident. That we

must avoid for our region as the world focuses in this area.”

Vietnam said China rammed one of its fishing boats on May

26 near the oil rig. The sinking happened two days after Chinese

fighter jets flew within tens of meters of Japanese surveillance

planes in the East China Sea.

China blamed the boat-sinking on Vietnam and accused Japan

of infringing on a no-fly zone it set up for its first bilateral

naval exercises with Russia in the East China Sea.

Rebalance ‘Reality’

Japanese and Chinese coast guard vessels have tailed one

another around the uninhabited islands, known as Senkaku in

Japan and Diaoyu in China, since Japan bought three of them from

a private Japanese owner late in 2012. Abe has not held a summit

with China since taking office almost 18 months ago.

While the U.S. has repeatedly said its obligation to defend

Japan extends to the disputed islands, U.S. President Barack Obama said in a speech on defense policy this week that the

armed forces can’t be “the primary component of our


Hagel today repeated the U.S. pledge to its strategic and

economic rebalancing to Asia even as crises in Europe and the

Middle East capture America’s attention.

The U.S. remains “committed to ensuring that any

reductions in U.S. defense spending do not come at the expense

of America’s commitments in the Asia-Pacific,” Hagel said.

“The rebalance is not a goal, promise, or a vision – it is a


To contact the reporters on this story:

Gopal Ratnam in Washington at;

Sharon Chen in Singapore at;

Isabel Reynolds in Tokyo at

To contact the editors responsible for this story:

Rosalind Mathieson at

Mike Anderson

Hagel Says China"s Actions in South China Sea Destabilizing

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