(CNSNews.com) – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel begins a three-day visit to China on Monday, after delivering a firm message to Beijing about the need to respect its neighbors, drawing a comparison between Russia’s takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea region and China’s pursuit of sovereignty claims in the South and East China Seas.
Addressing a joint press conference with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera in Tokyo Sunday, Hagel said he would raise with his Chinese hosts “respect for their neighbors.”
“Coercion, intimidation is a very deadly thing that leads only to conflict,” he said. “All nations, all people deserve respect no matter how large or how small. I think we are seeing some clear evidence of a lack of respect and intimidation and coercion in Europe today in what the Russians have done in Ukraine.”
“We must be very careful and we must be very clear, all nations of the world, that in the 21st century this will not stand. You cannot go around the world and redefine boundaries and violate territorial integrity and sovereignty of nations by force, coercion, and intimidation – whether it’s in small islands in the Pacific, or large nations in Europe.”
Hagel said he wanted “to talk with our Chinese friends about this.”
China is embroiled in a dispute with Japan over contested islands in the East China Sea, and is also tussling with several Southeast Asian nations, including Vietnam and the Philippines, over resource-rich waters and islets in the South China Sea.
Tensions increased last November after Beijing declared an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over a large area of the East China Sea including the islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. China requires all aircraft entering the zone to identify themselves and file flight plans.
Hagel on Sunday reiterated that since the islands are administered by Japan, Washington regards them as falling within the scope of Article Five of the 1960 U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. It states that, “Each Party recognizes that an armed attack against either Party in the territories under the administration of Japan would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional provisions and processes.”
“We take seriously America’s treaty commitments,” Hagel said. “And we strongly oppose any unilateral coercive action that seeks to undermine Japan’s administrative control. A peaceful resolution of territorial disputes is in the interests of all nations of the region.”
Hagel described China as a “great power,” but added that, “with this power comes new and wider responsibilities as to how you use that power, how you employ that military power.”
He said he would speak to the Chinese about the importance of transparency and dialogue.
“The more transparent and open governments can be with each other, the better for everyone. That avoids miscalculation, misinterpretation, misunderstanding. And hopefully that lowers the risks of conflict.”