US ‘pivot’ must not target China, defence minister warns

Chang Wanquan stresses co-operation during meeting with American counterpart, but also asserts PLA's commitment to defending territory

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 August, 2013, 4:33am

Defence minister General Chang Wanquan has urged Washington not to target China in its "pivot" towards Asia, its term for its diplomatic and military shift towards the Pacific.

Chang - on his first trip to the United States as minister - reiterated China's pledge not to make concessions on its core interests. He also struck a positive note, vowing, after three hours of talks with US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, to boost military ties with the US.

[Both nations should refrain] from imposing one's will on the other, or gaining one's own interests at the expense of the interests of the other
Chinese defence minister General Chang Wanquan

Chang's trip comes amid bitter territorial disputes between China and its neighbours, including Japan in the East China Sea and Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea.

Beijing has been irked by US efforts to strengthen its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region - a move it has perceived as an effort by Washington to back Beijing's rivals in the disputes.

The increased military activities of the US further complicated the security situation in the region and Washington's presence in Asia should not "target a specific country in the region", Chang told reporters.

Both nations should respect each other's vital interests and refrain from "imposing one's will on the other, or gaining one's own interests at the expense of the interests of the other", Chang said.

For his part, Hagel reiterated that the US did not take sides in the disputes, but said that the controversies should be settled without coercion.

Chang said Beijing wanted to resolve the disputes through dialogue, but on the basis that its core interests were safeguarded.

"No one should fantasise that China would barter away our core interests. And no one should underestimate our will and determination in defending our territory, sovereignty and maritime rights," he said.

It is imperative for countries in the region to keep peace and stability in mind and balance the security concerns of different countries, Chang said.

Meanwhile, Hagel said he would visit China next year and Chang affirmed that the Chinese navy would for the first time join the biennial Rim of the Pacific multinational exercises. "We both agreed that our military-to-military relationship is an important component of our overall bilateral relations and that the current military relationship is gaining a good momentum," Chang said.

Chang met the head of the US Pacific Command in Hawaii on Friday and the head of the Northern Command on Saturday. This weekend, Chinese naval forces will take part in an anti-piracy exercise with US ships in the Gulf of Aden.

The talks touched on cybersecurity, a contentious issue as each side has been accused of spying on the other, with former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden claiming the US was monitoring a large amount of China's communications. Chang said Beijing was opposed to any cyberworld arms race and to "double standards", which was seen as a reference to NSA surveillance.

Yue Gang, a retired colonel, said the talks between the two military leaders lowered the possibility of either country misjudging the strategic intentions of the other.

"Chang has clearly explained to the US the bottom line of China's core interests," Yue said. "But suspicions will still linger because the two nations still lack mutual political trust."