Citing India, Hagel Addresses Chinese Concerns During Shangri-La Dialogue

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks at the opening plenary session of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, June 1, 2013. Hagel will meet with defense ministers at the event to discuss issues of mutual importance and then continue to Brussels to meet with NATO defense ministers

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Singapore – During a question-and-answer session following his speech here this morning, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel countered a Chinese general’s question on whether the US strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific is intended to contain China.

Hagel spoke at the 12th Annual Shangri-La Dialogue before delegates from some 27 nations in the region. Following his remarks, Maj. Gen. Yao Yunzhu, director of China-America Defense Relations for China’s Academy of Military Science, expressed doubt about statements made by US leaders that the US strategic emphasis in the region is not intended to limit China’s military growth.

Hagel responded that as he said during his speech, the United States welcomes “a strong and emerging and responsible China.” The same is true of other emerging nations including India and Indonesia, he added.

“We look forward to that emergence for many reasons, but one among them all is as important as any other, and that’s the responsibility that great nations take on,” he said.

Powerful nations share responsibilities for security in their region, he said, because they have “huge stakes” in maintaining stability and peace.

“We recognize that; we want to be part of that,” the secretary said.

The United States has been a Pacific power for 200 years, Hagel noted, so its emphasis on the region is not new.

“We’ve had interests, partnerships, relationships in this part of the world for a long time,” he said. “We have interests here too, just as China and Russia and other nations have interests all over the world.”

Hagel said reassuring China on US intentions in the region is at the core of enhanced military to military ties.

The United States wants to avoid miscalculations, misunderstandings and misinterpretations, he said.

“The only way you do that is you talk to each other,” the secretary said. “You’ve got to be direct with each other; you have to share with each other; you’ve got to be inclusive with each other. And I think we’re on track with that. I think we’ve made good … and continued progress on that, and we’ll make more progress.”

Later, a senior defense official who is part of Hagel’s delegation told reporters on background China is “the only country that is even questioning whether we have a containment strategy toward China. Everyone else recognizes that we don’t.”

The official acknowledged the US did employ such a strategy during the Cold War. The relationship between the two countries now, he noted, is “very, very different.”

Hagel will remain in Singapore through the end of the Shangri-La Dialogue before traveling on to Brussels for NATO defense minister meetings.

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