US defense secretary to visit Philippines
WASHINGTON – US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday said that next week he will visit the Philippines, which is involved in a maritime dispute with China, during the course of a four-nation trip to Southeast Asia.
Hagel will visit Kuala Lumpur from Aug. 24-26; Jakarta, Aug. 26-27; Brunei Aug. 27-29 and Manila, Aug. 29-30.
His visit to the Philippines comes amid ongoing negotiations on the increased rotational presence of American troops in the country.
In Brunei, Hagel will meet with his defense counterparts from across the Asia-Pacific region and with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) defense ministers at their annual retreat.
Meanwhile, Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Chang Wanquan warned that no one should underestimate China’s determination to defend its territory, sovereignty and maritime rights – and neither should anyone fantasize that China would barter away its core interests.
At a press conference in Washington on Monday after talks that both officials described as productive, Hagel and Chang agreed to improve US-China military-to-military relations to provide security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and the world.
Chang said since the US rebalance to Asia, joint military exercises between the US and its allies had increased in frequency and intensity, complicating the situation in the region.
“It is our hope that this rebalancing strategy is a constructive one that could help the peace and stability in the region,” Chang said, adding “we hope that this strategy does not target a specific country in the region.”
Chang said the current situation in Asia-Pacific was generally stable, but there were some hot spots and sensitive issues.
“Some hot issues are heating, while some other sensitive issues are getting even more sensitive. Improper handling of these issues could lead to a severe impact on the overall security situation in the region,” he said.
Tension has risen in the region as China continues to press maritime territorial claims against its neighbors in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.
Chang said disputes should be solved through dialogue and negotiation.
Nations big or small, strong or weak, should make positive and constructive efforts to promote regional peace and stability, Chang said.
“Any action that leads to trouble or provocation, any action... (that) further complicates or magnifies the situation would be highly irresponsible and will not lead to a favorable result,” he added.
For his part, Hagel said the United States welcomed and supported the rise of a prosperous and responsible China that helps solve regional and global problems.
Establishing better military-to-military relations between the United States and China is important to the overall bilateral relationship, Hagel said.
He announced he had accepted Chang’s invitation to visit China next year, a move that highlights contacts between the two nations at the highest military levels.
The Asia-Pacific is a region where the interests of China and United States intertwine the most and where China and the US interact most frequently, Chang said.
The People’s Liberation Army is ready to work with the US military to strengthen communication, coordination, and cooperation to contribute to the regional peace, stability, and prosperity, he added.
In their talks, Chang said he and Hagel agreed to actively explore a notification mechanism for major military activities and continue to study the rules of behavior on military air and maritime activities.
They also discussed a number of regional security issues, including North Korea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea “and I reaffirmed longstanding US policies on these issues,” Hagel said. – With Alexis Romero, Roel Pareño