SINGAPORE—China strongly denounced Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and United States Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Sunday for “provocative” remarks accusing Beijing of destabilizing actions in contested regional waters.
Lieutenant General Wang Guanzhong, deputy chief of the general staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), told an Asian security forum in Singapore that the comments had been “unacceptable”.
Abe opened the Shangri-La Dialogue on Friday by urging countries to respect the rule of law — an apparent reference to perceived Chinese aggression over disputed islets in the South and East China seas.
Hagel followed on Saturday by warning China against “destabilizing actions” in the South China Sea and listed a number of alleged infractions, including against the Philippines and Vietnam.
“The Chinese delegation… have this feeling that the speeches of Mr. Abe and Mr. Hagel are a provocative action against China,” said Wang, dressed in full military regalia.
He cast aside his prepared speech and said he needed to respond to the remarks, accusing Abe and Hagel of “coordinating” with each other to attack China at the conference.
“This is simply unimaginable,” said Wang, the highest ranking military official in the Chinese delegation, adding that the speeches were “unacceptable and not in the spirit of this Shangri-La Dialogue”.
“The speeches made by Mr Abe and Mr Hagel gave me the impression that they coordinated with each other, they supported each other, they encouraged each other and they took the advantage of speaking first… and staged provocative actions and challenges against China,” he said.
Stressing US commitments to allies and friends in Asia, Hagel had called for a peaceful resolution of maritime disputes and issued a blunt message to Beijing. “In recent months, China has undertaken destabilizing, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea,” the Pentagon chief said.
He accused China of restricting the Philippines’ access to Scarborough Shoal, putting pressure on Manila’s long-standing presence in Second Thomas Shoal (Ayungin Shoal), beginning land reclamation at various locations and moving an oil rig into disputed waters with Vietnam.
Hagel said that while the United States does not take sides on rival claims, “we firmly oppose any nation’s use of intimidation, coercion, or the threat of force to assert these claims”.
“The United States will not look the other way when fundamental principles of the international order are being challenged,” he warned… see more