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China hits back at US, Japan for 'provocative' remarks
by Staff Writers
Singapore (AFP) June 01, 2014

China slams US defence chief for 'threats': state TV
Beijing (AFP) May 31, 2014 - A Chinese military official on Saturday blasted the United States for making "threats" after the US defence chief accused Beijing of inflaming tensions in the disputed South China Sea, state television reported.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had denounced China's "destabilising, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea," at a security forum in Singapore which both officials are attending.

The Chinese army's deputy chief of staff Wang Guanzhong described Hagel's comments at the Shangri-La Dialogue as baseless.

"Secretary Hagel's speech is full of threats and intimidating language. Secretary Hagel's speech is full of encouragement, incitement for the Asia region's instability giving rise to a disturbance," state broadcaster China Central Television quoted Wang as telling reporters.

"Secretary Hagel, in this kind of public space with many people, openly criticised China without reason. This accusation is completely without basis," Wang said.

Tensions have recently flared in the South China Sea, claimed almost entirely by China, which has lately taken bold steps to enforce what it says are its historical rights.

Wang added the value of the Shangri-La Dialogue was to encourage exchanges, sometimes blunt, between governments and think-tanks but China should not be accused without basis, CCTV said.

China's official Xinhua news agency on Saturday accused the United States of raising tensions in Asia, following Hagel's speech.

"The United States has been trying to practise its approach of ensuring the safety of its allies by maintaining its military dominance," it said.

"It even adopted the strategy of stoking fires to do this with the influence felt and visibly seen behind the tensions on the South China Sea."

China has sought to counter Washington's foreign policy "pivot" to Asia, but it has also angered Vietnam, Japan and the Philippines -- the latter two US allies -- with what those countries say are aggressive moves in separate maritime rows.

Relations between China and Vietnam have worsened after Beijing sent a deep-water oil drilling rig into contested waters in the South China Sea.

The Philippines accuses China of reclaiming land on a disputed reef within its exclusive economic zone under a United Nations convention, while Beijing and Tokyo have a long-running feud over disputed islands in the East China Sea.

On Friday, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, also speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue, vowed that his country would play a larger role in promoting peace in Asia and called for the rule of law to be upheld in the region.

Another commentary published by Xinhua on Saturday dismissed the speech as seeking to mask Japan's military ambitions.

"Such rhetoric is fundamentally flawed when it came from the nationalist leader who has been trying to conjure up the militarist past of Japan in a drive to re-arm his country," it said.

China denounced Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Sunday for "provocative" remarks accusing Beijing of destabilising actions in contested Asian waters.

Lieutenant General Wang Guanzhong, deputy chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army, told an Asian security forum in Singapore that strong comments made by Abe and Hagel at the conference were "unacceptable".

Abe had opened the Shangri-La Dialogue on Friday by urging countries to respect the rule of law -- an apparent reference to what rivals consider aggressive Chinese behaviour over disputed areas in the South China Sea and East China Sea.

Hagel on Saturday warned China against "destabilising actions" in the South China Sea and listed a number of alleged infractions, including against the Philippines and Vietnam, the two most vocal critics of Beijing's claims.

"The Chinese delegation... have this feeling that the speeches of Mr Abe and Mr Hagel are a provocative action against China," Wang, dressed in full military uniform, said in an address to the forum.

Abe had left Saturday and Hagel departed early Sunday before Wang spoke.

The Pentagon said Hagel and Wang held a brief meeting Saturday in which they "exchanged views about issues important to both the US and China, as well as to the region".

About midway into his prepared speech in which he said China "will never seek hegemony and foreign expansion", Wang diverted from the script.

He accused Abe and Hagel of "coordinating" with each other to attack China.

"This is simply unimaginable," said Wang, the highest ranking military official in the Chinese delegation, adding that the US and Japanese 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.

- 'Destabilising actions' -

Hagel issued a blunt message to Beijing on Saturday, saying "China has undertaken destabilising, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea."

He accused China of restricting the Philippines' access to Scarborough Shoal, putting pressure on Manila's long-standing presence in Second Thomas Shoal, beginning land reclamation at various locations and moving an oil rig into disputed waters with Vietnam.

Hagel said that while Washington 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.

Abe in turn pledged that his country would play a larger role in promoting peace in Asia as his administration moves to reshape the Japanese military's purely defensive stance.

"Japan intends to play an even greater and more proactive role than it has until now in making peace in Asia and the world something more certain," Abe said.

Beijing and Tokyo contest islands in the East China Sea.

Wang, who stressed Beijing's historic rights to the seas, said he preferred Hagel's frankness by directly naming China, compared to Abe who did not mention any country but obviously targeted Beijing.

"If I am to compare the attitude of the two leaders, I would prefer the attitude of Mr Hagel. It is better to be more direct," he said.

As the conference drew to a close, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian joined a chorus of senior defence officials urging rival claimants to show restraint to prevent larger conflicts.

Le Drian said a proposed agreement between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on a code of conduct to handle disputes in the South China Sea was "the only way to prevent incidents in that coveted area".

Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen urged Asian states not to "backslide into a fractious environment, riven by confrontational nationalism and lack of mutual trust".


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US accuses China of 'destabilising' acts in South China Sea
Singapore (AFP) May 31, 2014
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned China Saturday against "destabilising actions" in the South China Sea, and backed Japan's plans to take on a more muscular military role as a counterweight to Beijing. Stressing US commitments to allies and friends in Asia, Hagel called for a peaceful resolution of maritime disputes and issued a blunt message to China, which was represented by a high-l ... read more

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