CHINA has been accused of undermining peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region by US defence secretary Chuck Hagel.
He told a security conference that the United States “will not look the other way” when China and others try to restrict navigation or ignore international rules and standards.
However, officials in Beijing scoffed at the remarks.
Hagel said China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea are destabilising the region and Beijing’s failure to resolve such disputes threatens Asia’s long-term progress.
Lieutenant General Wang Guanzhong, deputy chief of China’s general staff, told Hagel: “Although I do think that those criticisms are groundless, I do appreciate your candour.”
Reporters were removed from the meeting before Hagel responded but Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said Hagel told Wang all regional disputes should be solved through diplomacy.
Hagel also used his attendance at the Shangri-La conference to single out China for “cyberspying” against the US.
The allegations came less than two weeks after the Obama administration charged five Chinese military officers with hacking US companies to steal trade secrets. The Chinese, in response, suspended participation in a US-China Cyber Working Group, and released a report that said the US is conducting unscrupulous cyber espionage and that China is a major target.
Noting the suspension, Hagel said the US will continue to raise cyber issues with the Chinese “because dialogue is essential for reducing the risk of miscalculation and escalation”.