US and China square off at Asia security forum

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The United States and China squared off at an Asian security forum yesterday, with the US defence secretary accusing Beijing of destabilising the region and a top Chinese general retorting that his comments were “threat and intimidation.”

Using unusually strong language, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel took aim at Beijing’s handling of territorial disputes with its Asian neighbours.

“In recent months, China has undertaken destabilising, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea,” Hagel said.

He warned Beijing that the United States was committed to its geopolitical rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region and “will not look the other way when fundamental principles of the international order are being challenged.”

Hagel said the United States took no position on the merits of rival territorial claims in the region, but added: “We firmly oppose any nation’s use of intimidation, coercion, or the threat of force to assert these claims.”

His speech at Singapore’s Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s biggest security forum, provoked an angry reaction from the deputy chief of staff of the Chinese Army, Lieutenant-General Wang Guanzhong.

“I felt that Secretary Hagel’s speech is full of hegemonism, threat and intimidation,” he told reporters just after the speech.

Wang said the speech was aimed at causing trouble in the Asia-Pacific.

Hagel’s comments followed the keynote address by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the same forum on Friday evening, who pledged “utmost support” to Southeast Asian countries, several of which are locked in maritime disputes with China.

“I felt that they were just trying to echo each other,” Wang said.

Hagel later held a bilateral meeting with Wang, where the Chinese military leader expressed his surprise at the US defence secretary’s speech.

“You were very candid this morning, and to be frank, more than our expectations,” he said. “Although I do think those criticisms are groundless, I do appreciate your candour likewise we will also share our candour.” A senior US defence official said that, despite Wang’s opening remarks, the tone of the meeting had been “businesslike and fairly amicable.”

While Hagel went over ground he covered in his speech, Wang spent most of the meeting talking about US-China military-to-military contacts, including Chinese participation in forthcoming military exercises, the official said.

The US official said Hagel’s speech had been well received by other Asian delegations with the exception of China.

In Beijing, President Xi Jinping said China would not initiate aggressive action in the South China Sea but would respond if others did, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

“We will never stir up trouble, but will react in the necessary way to the provocations of countries involved,” Xinhua quoted Xi as saying in a meeting on Friday with Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia.

China claims almost the entire oil- and gas-rich South China Seas, and dismisses competing claims from Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia. Japan also has a territorial row with China over islands in the East China Sea.

Latest in World News

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron speaks after Britain voted to leave the European Union, outside Number 10 Downing Street in London, Britain June 24, 2016. Reuters/Stefan Wermuth

Cameron quits after Britain votes to leave EU

LONDON,  (Reuters) – Britain has voted to leave the European Union, forcing the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and dealing the biggest blow since World War Two to the European project of forging greater unity.

default placeholder

South African court blocks appeal by Zuma over corruption charges

PRETORIA,  (Reuters) – South African President Jacob Zuma failed yesterday in his appeal against a court ruling that corruption charges against him be reinstated, another setback for the leader who has been facing calls for his resignation.

default placeholder

Britain votes to leave EU in historic divorce – BBC

LONDON, (Reuters) – Britain has voted to leave the European Union, the BBC said based on voter tallies from yesterday’s referendum, an outcome that would set the country on an uncertain path and deal the largest setback to European efforts to forge greater unity since World War Two.

Cuba's President Raul Castro (C) looks as Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos (L) shakes hands with FARC rebel leader Rodrigo Londono, better known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, after signing a historic ceasefire deal between the Colombian government and FARC rebels in Havana, Cuba, June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

Tears of joy as rebels sign ceasefire with Colombian government

HAVANA/BOGOTA,  (Reuters) – Colombia’s government and leftist FARC rebels signed a historic ceasefire deal yesterday that brought them tantalizingly close to ending the longest running conflict in the Americas.

default placeholder

OAS chief blames Maduro government for Venezuela crisis

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – The head of the OAS regional bloc, Luis Almagro, yesterday blamed President Nicolas Maduro’s government for Venezuela’s crisis, saying the South American oil-rich nation was now mired in poverty, corruption and violence.

default placeholder

Latest gun control bid falters in Congress, Democrat sit-in ends

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – Another attempt at gun control faltered in the U.S. Congress yesterday despite outrage at the Orlando massacre, as a proposed ban on firearms sales to people being monitored for links to terrorism barely avoided being killed in the Senate.

default placeholder

Split U.S. Supreme Court blocks Obama immigration plan

WASHINGTON,  (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday blocked President Barack Obama’s plan to spare millions of immigrants in the country illegally from deportation in a split ruling that heartened political foes who had accused him of overstepping his powers.

default placeholder

Britain votes on EU membership after tight and bitter campaign

LONDON, (Reuters) – Britons will decide the future of their country and Europe today in a vote on European Union membership after a bitter campaign that appeared to divide the nation down the middle.

Comments

About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Stay updated! Follow Stabroek News on Facebook or Twitter.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning: