A day after Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel toured the first Chinese aircraft carrier, China sent a message to the world: our military power cannot be contained. The comment comes after Hagel had a number of strong disagreements to actions taken by China, just as China had a good deal of disagreements against actions taken by the U.S. The latest visit proves tensions between the U.S. and China will only continue to grow, even as Hagel says he is trying to decrease those tensions.
The timing was part of the message: The day after China brought US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on board its first aircraft carrier as the first foreign visitor, its defense minister warned that no one, not even the United States, could contain its military ambitions.
“With the latest developments in China, it can never be contained,” Gen. Chang Wanquan said, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. The US is “a country of worldwide influence, and the Pacific Ocean is huge enough to hold both China and the US for common development and also huge enough to hold the other Asia-Pacific countries.”
Mr. Hagel hopes to create a framework to “manage competition” between the US and China, and to reassure other countries in the region who fear being trampled by China – and might take action to send a message to Beijing.
The US-China relationship has been strained by cyberattacks and territorial disputes with US allies in the South and East China seas. But with the US taking steps to maintain its influence in the region – the so-called “pivot to Asia” – increased communication and cooperation will be key.
The joint press conference between Gen. Chang and Hagel was tense, The Wall Street Journal reports:
Gen. Chang castigated Japan for stirring up trouble in the East China Sea and accused the Philippines of illegally occupying islands in the South China Sea. He blasted U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and urged America to take a more measured approach to regional disputes.
In turn, Mr. Hagel criticized China for unilaterally establishing an air-defense zone over disputed islands in the East China Sea without conferring with its competitors in the region.
“That adds to tensions, misunderstandings and could eventually add to and eventually get to a dangerous conflict,” said Mr. Hagel, who wagged his finger as he emphasized his concerns.
Both Japan and the Philippines are US allies. Hagel visited Japan before heading to China, where he sought to reassure Japan that the US would continue to stand by it, The New York Times reports.