01 Jun US raps China over ‘destabilising’ acts
United States Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel yesterday sharply criticised China for “destabilising, unilateral actions” in asserting its territorial claims in the South China Sea and warned that Washington would not look the other way when fundamental principles of international order are being challenged.
In an hour-long speech before defence ministers, top-ranking military officials and security experts gathered for the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Mr Hagel also defended the US’ Asia policy, saying its signature rebalance strategy was already a “reality” and not just talk.
In unusually pointed remarks, Mr Hagel said: “In recent months, China has undertaken destabilising, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea. It has restricted access to Scarborough Reef, put pressure on the long-standing Philippine presence at the Second Thomas Shoal, begun land reclamation activities at multiple locations, and moved an oil rig into disputed waters near the Paracel Islands.”
Mr Hagel said plainly that the US would not be a bystander if international norms were flouted. “We firmly oppose any nation’s use of intimidation, coercion, or the threat of force to assert those claims. The United States will not look the other way when fundamental principles of the international order are being challenged.”
Among the region’s analysts, Mr Hagel’s words were received with some reservation. Professor Simon Tay, of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said Mr Hagel meant to be reassuring, but cuts in the Pentagon’s budget and dysfunctional Washington politics meant there were doubts about what the US could actually do.
The full article was published on 1 June in The Straits Times.