China is prepared to defend its interests and won’t trade away its territorial claims in the Asia-Pacific region, General Chang Wanquan, the country’s Defense Minister, said during a visit to the Pentagon.
While China prefers to solve disputes in the region through “dialogue and negotiation, no one should fantasize that China would barter away our core interests,” Chang said at a news conference yesterday in Washington alongside U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. “No one should underestimate our will and determination in defending our territorial sovereignty and maritime rights.”
The U.S. strategy of rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific region has tended to focus on military aspects even as it’s billed as involving engagement as well, Chang said.
“We also notice that the frequency and intensity of joint military exercises are increasing,” Chang said. “To a certain degree, this kind of intensified military activity further complicates the situation in the region.”
China has been engaged in disputes with Japan and the Philippines over islands in the East and South China seas. China has cut the cables of survey ships working for Vietnam, and its dispute with the Philippines has led to several standoffs between Chinese and Philippine vessels. China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over more than 100 islets, atolls and reefs that form the Paracel and Spratly Islands as well as jurisdiction over the seabed and subsoil.
In discussions yesterday with Chang, Hagel said he emphasized the longstanding U.S. position that it doesn’t take sides and that the disputes must be resolved without coercion.
Chang, on his first visit to the Pentagon since becoming defense minister last year, proposed ways that the two countries’ militaries can notify each other of their activities as well as rules of behavior for their armed forces, Hagel said. Pentagon officials are studying the proposals, Hagel said.
Asked how the two militaries can build trust when Chinese hackers, backed by the military, continue attacking U.S. military and civilian computers, Chang said the People’s Liberation Army “has never supported any kind of hacker activity.”
Chang said China opposed “double standards” on computer attacks and said his country was also a victim of such attacks.