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Pentagon chief's visit exposes US-China divide

BEIJING -- Visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chinese military chiefs traded warnings and rebukes Tuesday as they clashed over Beijing's territorial disputes with its neighbors, North Korea's missile program and cyber espionage.

Both sides were clearly at odds over a litany of issues, despite Hagel and his counterpart General Chang Wanquan calling for more dialogue between the world's strongest and largest militaries, with the American coming under hostile questioning from a roomful of People's Liberation Army officers.

One member of the audience told Hagel the United States feared China's rise and was sowing trouble among its Pacific neighbors to “hamper” Beijing because one day “China will be too big a challenge for the United States to cope with.”

The Pentagon chief denied the U.S. was trying to hold China back but the tough questioning contrasted with the deferential reception given to his predecessor Leon Panetta at a similar event two years ago.

Hagel faced a blunt reprimand in an earlier meeting with a senior officer, General Fan Changlong, vice-chairman of China's Central Military Commission, according to an account from the official state news agency Xinhua.

Referring to critical comments by Hagel earlier in his Asia trip, Fan said the “Chinese people, including myself, are dissatisfied with such remarks.”

Hagel's press secretary acknowledged the two “shared a very frank exchange of views.”

In his speech at the PLA National Defence University, Hagel confronted several disagreements head on, scolding China for its support of North Korea while warning against “coercion” in territorial disputes with its smaller neighbors in the South China Sea and East China Sea.

Amid rising tensions between China and Japan as well as the Philippines, Hagel emphasized Washington's military alliance with Japan and other Asian partners, saying: “Our commitment to allies in the region is unwavering.”

April 9, 2014    legerweck@
Japan, until this year, had decreased its defense budget year after year, for 10 consecutive years. This year it was increased by 1%. I doubt China fears that Japan, or the Philippines, or Vietnam or Malaysia will attack it. China now appears intent on seizing the Senkakus/Diaoutais, by intimidation, or force; has established an ADZ over the these uninhabited islands, seizes islets 100 Km (and less) off the coast of Philippines and claims jurisdiction over the seas washing the shores of these small countries, where Filipinos, Malaysians, etc, have been fishing for the last 5000 years, it appears things are going downhill..
April 10, 2014    papa11367@
Any aggressive posture/move on the part of the PRC will result in a catastrophe for China and the entire Asia-Pacific. One wonders why so many Chinese, especially the wealthy, have made, or are making, plans to eventually move to the USA or any other Western (of course) country. Well, that's the reason. The hawks in the USA would be more than happy to take it to the Middle Empire. The PRC should think twice. It has only business partners in the region, but no real friends, and there is a reason for that. I applaud Secretary Hagel's words, and body language. Quite a performance!
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U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chinese Minister of Defense Chang Wanquan listen to the Chinese national anthem during a welcome ceremony at the Chinese Defense Ministry headquarters in Beijing, Tuesday, April 8. (AP)

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