Hagel speech reflects US hypocrisy

Updated: 2014-06-03 08:20

By Wang Hui(China Daily)

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US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's remark at the 13th Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on Saturday was nothing but balderdash and justifiably condemned by China. The US defense chief did everything he could at the Shangri-La Dialogue, or Asia Security Summit, to accuse China of taking "destabilizing, unilateral actions" in the South China Sea, criticizing the demarcation of China's Air Defense Identification Zone over the East China Sea. He also charged China with cyber spying against the United States.

The US accusations are groundless and it was inappropriate of Hagel to use a regional security forum to fire anti-China remarks where Washington's role is by no means constructive to regional peace and stability.

After Hagel's speech, Wang Guanzhong, deputy chief of general staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army who led the Chinese delegation, rightfully said that the US defense chief's speech bore every sign of US hegemony and was filled with instigation, threat and intimidation.

On Sunday, delivering a speech on the third day of the forum, Wang continued his fight against the US defense chief's irresponsible remarks. "He made a speech to stoke instability and encourage fighting in the Asia-Pacific. His attitude was not constructive," the Chinese general said.

Wang's comments provide an accurate lens for people to see through Washington's real intentions in the region. Hagel has criticized China for taking so-called destabilizing and unilateral actions in the South China Sea, but it is the US' unilateral moves in the region that have encouraged some countries to lay claim to some islands and islets and their surrounding waters over which they have no sovereignty.

Until 2009, no country had challenged China's de facto control over the "nine-dash line" that outlines its territory in the South China Sea. The nine-dash, U-shaped line explicitly defines China's area of jurisdiction, and China has indisputable evidence to prove its sovereignty and maritime rights in the area.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which some claimant countries have frequently referred, also respects historical rights.

Since 2009, when the Barack Obama administration announced its "rebalancing to Asia" policy, Washington has been beefing up its presence in the Asia-Pacific region. It has strengthened its military ties with its allies and shipped advanced military equipment to the region.

It is no secret that Washington has been pulling the strings from behind to intensify the maritime disputes in the Asia-Pacific. By blaming China for the deteriorating situation in the South China Sea, Hagel has only laid bare the US' hypocrisy and partiality in the disputes.

Besides, the US objects to the establishment of China's ADIZ over the East China Sea out of fear that Beijing's increasing activities may thwart its vested interests in the region. Since the establishment of China's ADIZ on Nov 23 the US has been leading a chorus denouncing the move. Its criticism, however, is not worth responding to because China's ADIZ conforms to international law and international practice - more than 20 countries have established ADIZs, and the US was the first to do so 60 years ago.

During Saturday's speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Hagel tried to portray the US as a country that defends the international order in the Asia-Pacific region. Washington has never hidden its intention of playing the leading role in Asia-Pacific affairs. But given the US' destructive attitude, as reflected in Hagel's remarks, even countries welcoming a bigger role for Uncle Sam in the region have been forced to doubt its real intentions. In fact, an increasing number of people in the region are beginning to realize that the US is hell-bent on fishing in troubled waters.

"The United States will not look the other way when fundamental principles to the international order are being challenged," Hagel said in Singapore. This statement is both hypocritical and self-deceiving.

The US has thrown its weight behind Japan, its regional ally, since September 2012 when the Japanese government decided to "nationalize" China's Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. During the Shangri-La Dialogue, Hagel and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, using the opportunity to speak first, joined hands to challenge China.

If Washington really wants to defend the international order, it should first ask its ally, Tokyo, to accept the facts of history and stop its attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea. Washington should also ask Abe to stop the right-wing turn of Japanese politicians because it poses the greatest threat to the basic norms of the international order.

By labeling false accusations against China, Hagel has sent a wrong signal, which reflects the US' Cold War mentality and its intention to contain China. This can be detrimental to the two governments' efforts to build a new type of major-power relationship and harm regional efforts to resolve maritime disputes.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily.