The “US is the one that resorts [to] force and intimidation,” a prominent Chinese foreign policy scholar wrote on Tuesday in response to comments made by US defence chief Chuck Hagel in Japan over the weekend.
During his visit to Tokyo, the US Defence Secretary on Sunday called on China to use its “great power” responsibly and warned Beijing against resorting to “coercion and intimidation” when dealing with neighbouring countries. Hagel is currently in China on a three-day visit.
In a commentary published in the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily, Shen Dingli, one of China's top scholars on Sino-US relations, hit back sharply at Hagel’s comments even as the Chinese Navy gave Hagel a rare inspection of its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.
Shen blasted the invasion of Iraq by America and its allies, which took place without United Nations Security Council authorisation, writing that Washington had left the war-torn country to deal with an “unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe” when its troops withdrew.
The scholar also accused the US of imposing military protection over and exporting weapons to Taiwan, which is claimed by Beijing as part of China, thereby preventing Beijing from safeguarding its sovereign integrity.
“How do you [describe] such acts if not as ‘violating territorial integrity and the sovereignty of nations by force, collusion or intimidation,’” he said in an article published in the overseas edition of the People’s Daily.
Shen, deputy dean of Fudan University’s Institute of International Studies and a prolific writer, also questioned Hagel’s statement that “You cannot go around the world and redefine boundaries,” a comment widely viewed as drawing a parallel between China’s territorial tensions with its neighbours and Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea.
China has in recent years been embroiled in territorial disputes with a number of countries in both the East China Sea and the South China Sea.
The most prominent of these tussles involves a group of uninhabited islands in East China Sea close to Taiwan that are known as the Diaoyu Islands in China but are controlled by Japan, which calls them the Senkaku Islands. The dispute intensified when Japan moved to ‘nationalise’ three of the islets in 2012, resulting in escalated bilateral tensions and frequent stand-offs between ships in the disputed waters around the islands.
In addition, a number of Southeast Asian nations are challenging Beijing’s territorial claim to most of the South China Sea. The Philippines, in its latest effort to assert its rights over a remote disputed reef last week, filed a plea before a United Nations’ arbitration tribunal, despite fierce warnings from China.
Shen said: “Talking about ‘redefining boundaries’, this is a complete fabrication if he is indeed referring to China”, in response to Hagel, reaffirming China’s historical claims to sovereignty that it says have existed for centuries.
Hagel on Monday became the first diplomatic visitor invited onboard China’s first aircraft carrier, a symbolic gesture widely seen as a response to repeated calls by Washington for it to be more open about the growth in its military capacity.