A top Chinese General on Sunday accused Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe and US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel of “coordinating” and “supporting” each other in their “provocative” remarks targeted at China at the Shangri-La Dialogue here.
Lieutenant General Wang Guanzhong, deputy chief of Staff of the People’s Liberation Army, said Abe and Hagel had made “unwanted criticisms against China” which was “unacceptable”.
Speaking at the 13th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Asia Security Summit at the Dialogue on Sunday, Lt Gen Wang, heading the Chinese delegation, deviated halfway through his prepared speech and said the criticism by Abe and Hagel was “completely out of my expectation.”
In his keynote address at the opening of the Dialogue on Friday, Abe had outlined his vision for a more robust Japanese role in the region’s peace and security, arguing that no country could secure peace on its own in a complex new environment.
Abe did not directly name China in his address but criticised Beijing’s behaviour in the region’s territorial disputes, especially the South China Sea.
Speaking at the same forum, Hagel denounced China’s “destabilising, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea.”
“In recent months, China has undertaken destabilising, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea,” Hagel said in his speech on Saturday.
Responding on Sunday, Lt Gen Wang hit back at the Japanese Premier for his veiled comments, and said that “it is better to be more direct”, in reference to Mr Hagel’s blunt remarks.
“This is simply unimaginable,” said Wang, the highest ranking military official in the Chinese delegation, adding that the speeches were “unacceptable and not in the spirit of this Shangri-La Dialogue”.
“The speeches made by Mr Abe and Mr Hagel gave me the impression that they coordinated with each other, they supported each other, they encouraged each other and they took the advantage of speaking first… and staged provocative actions and challenges against China,” he said.
“Hagel’s speech was full of hegemony, full of words of threat and intimidation. It was a speech to about destabilising factors to create trouble and make provocations.
It was not a constructive speech,” the Chinese General said.
“China has never taken the first step to provoke troubles,” Lt Gen Wang said, referring to territorial and maritime disputes Beijing has with several neighbouring states, including Vietnam and the Philippines.
“China has only forced to respond to provocative action by other parties,” he added.
The Lieutenant General said remarks by Abe and Hagel had gone against the spirit of constructive discussion of the Shangri-La Dialogue.
“Who is actually making provocations and creating trouble and differences? Who is being assertive?” he asked.
Wang said he preferred Hagel’s directness by directly naming China, compared to Abe who did not mention any country.
China is locked in maritime territorial disputes with some Southeast Asian countries over waters in the South China Sea.
China and Japan also contest some islands in the East China Sea.