Thứ Hai, 2 tháng 6, 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

region, drawing a rebuke from a Chinese General.

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 the annual

Shangri-La 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.

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


Taking questions after his speech, 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


‘Position Clear’

“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


Hagel later met Lieutenant General Wang Guanzhong, the

deputy chief of general staff of the PLA, who told Hagel his

criticism was “groundless” and said the U.S. defense secretary

had been “very candid” in his speech.

Speaking separately on China Central Television, Wang said

Hagel had “openly pointed” his finger at China in a public

setting, according to a summary posted on CCTV’s website.

“Secretary Hagel’s speech is full of American hegemony;

secondly, it’s full of threats and intimidation; thirdly, it’s

full of instigation and incitement, aimed at provoking restless

elements in the Asian-Pacific region to stir up trouble.”

Hagel-Abe ‘Duet’

Wang also criticized Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Abe has accused China of trying to change the status quo by

force, and in a speech at the forum yesterday set out his policy

to broaden the role of Japan’s defense force to be able to come

to the aid of allies.

“I feel they’re echoing each other and sang a duet,” Wang

said of Hagel and Abe, according to CCTV. “We can see from the

Shangri-La Dialogue this year, it’s Japan and the U.S. who

stirred up conflict.”

Singapore defense minister Ng Eng Hen told reporters he

would rather have sessions at the forum that dealt with the

issues “than have token sessions where it’s just motherhood

statements and there isn’t direct identification of issues and

then we assume that we have had a conference.”

Alongside its dispute with Japan in the East China Sea,

China claims much of the South China Sea under its “nine-dash

line” map, first published in 1947. The map 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.

Vietnam Options

“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,” Abe said in his speech yesterday at

the forum, referring to the 10-member Association of Southeast

Asian Nations

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. “Everyone will

lose,” he said. “The whole world economy will be hurt and

damaged immeasurably.”

Vietnamese Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh said today he

has contacted the deputy chair of the military commission of

China as Vietnam seeks to communicate with China over the oil

rig dispute.

“I hope that in the coming days leaders of the two

countries can meet and discuss these disputes,” Thanh said at

the Singapore forum. “We still have room for peaceful

dialogue.” The legal avenue, he said, would be a “last


Malaysia Worries

Malaysia Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said he is

increasingly concerned about tensions in the waters.

“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.

U.S. Rebalancing

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.

Two Chinese ships briefly entered Japanese controlled

waters this morning near the islands, according to Japan’s Coast


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

Hagel Says China"s Actions in South China Sea Destabilizing

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