US warns China against Russia-style territory claims
April 7, 2014, 12:02 am TWN
TOKYO -- Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel on Sunday warned China against unilateral action to resolve territorial disputes with its neighbors, drawing a parallel with Russia's incursion in Ukraine as he announced two more warships would be sent to Japan.
Seeking to reassure Washington's longtime ally Japan, Hagel's remarks and promise of more missile defense ships came as Tokyo faces a tense row with Beijing over islands in the East China Sea.
"All nations deserve respect, no matter how large or how small," Hagel said during a visit to Tokyo.
"I think we're seeing some clear evidence of a lack of respect, and coercion and intimidation with ... what the Russians have done in Ukraine," he told a news conference with his Japanese counterpart, Itsunori Onodera.
Countries had to speak up and reject such a blatant violation of international law, said Hagel, referring to Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.
And in a veiled reference to China and its territorial arguments with Asian neighbors, Hagel said smaller countries had the same sovereign rights as larger states.
"You cannot go around and redefine boundaries, violate territorial integrity and sovereignty of nations by force, coercion and intimidation — whether it's in small islands in the Pacific, or large nations in Europe," Hagel said.
"So I want to talk to our Chinese friends about this," said the defense secretary, who departs for Beijing on Monday.
US Takes Tougher Line
His comments underscored a tougher line by the U.S. government on China's approach to territorial claims in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, after some Southeast Asian countries accused Beijing of intimidation tactics.
As "a great power," China has "great responsibilities," Hagel said.
A topic Hagel plans to raise with the Chinese this week is "respect for their neighbors," he said.
"Coercion, intimidation is a very deadly thing. It leads only to conflict," he said.
In Tokyo, Hagel unveiled plans to send two more Aegis missile defense warships to Japan by 2017, citing "Pyongyang's pattern of provocative and destabilizing actions."
The U.S. ships would join five missile defense vessels already stationed in the area, and were part of an American strategic "rebalance" to the Asia-Pacific, officials said.