The Chinese Defense Minister and U.S. Secretary of Defense met in Beijing this week for what were supposed to be amicable talks. But when the conversation turned to the East China Sea territorial disputes, the diplomatic goodwill evaporated. Chuck Hagel and his Chinese counterpart General Chang Wanquan held firm to their opposing positions, according to NYT:
“China has indisputable sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands,” General Chang said. He added that on the issue of what he called “territorial sovereignty,” China would “make no compromise, no concession, no treaty.”He continued, “The Chinese military can assemble as soon as summoned, fight any battle and win.”General Chang made his comments at a news conference with the United States defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, after a morning of meetings at the Ministry of National Defense. It is Mr. Hagel’s first trip to China as defense secretary. […]Mr. Hagel accused China of adding to tensions in the region by unilaterally declaring an air defense zone in the East China Sea with “no collaboration, no consultation.” Such moves, he warned, could “eventually get to dangerous conflict.”
Hagel reaffirmed that the U.S. is committed to its defense treaties with Japan and the Philippines. The Beijing speech echoed the remarks he made in Tokyo on Sunday:
“Coercion and intimidation is a deadly thing,” Hagel said, in an apparent reference to Chinese territorial claims that have rankled neighbors, most significantly Japan. “You cannot go around the world and redefine boundaries and violate territorial integrity and sovereignty of nations by force, coercion or intimidation, whether it’s small islands in the Pacific or large nations in Europe.”
Following the meeting in Tokyo, America announced it would be sending Japan two more destroyers with ballistic missile defense capabilities by 2017, boosting the number of destroyers stationed there to seven.The U.S. is working to reassure its Pacific allies and let them know that it hasn’t forgotten them. Both Japan and the Philippines have had reason recently to doubt America’s commitment to their security in the face of an increasingly aggressive China. Hagel’s remarks were aimed squarely at soothing their fears, as well as putting Beijing on notice not to draw the wrong conclusions from the Ukraine crisis.