Opinion / Editorials

Explanation from Hagel needed

(China Daily) Updated: 2014-04-09 07:45

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel started his first visit to China since taking office on Monday.

Describing his three-day trip as a journey to boost trust, openness and transparency between Beijing and Washington, Hagel said on Thursday in Honolulu that Chinese are his "friends," stressing the United States' "pivot to Asia" is "not a contain-China strategy".

Those words were certainly welcomed by Beijing. However, other messages sent by Hagel in the past few days are not easily interpreted as a friendly gesture, said a Xinhua commentary.

In an interview with Japan's Nikkei newspaper on Saturday, Hagel criticized China's Air Defense Identification Zone over the East China Sea calling it provocative and unilateral, and laying misplaced blame on China for rising tensions in one of the most geopolitically sensitive areas.

As the new defense secretary, Hagel has to be informed of some basic facts.

China's establishment of an ADIZ is a legitimate move, which conforms to the UN Charter and is aimed at ensuring stability, while the escalating tension was initially ignited by Tokyo's illegal "nationalization" of China's Diaoyu Islands in 2012.

Since then, the nationalist government led by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been carrying out a political campaign - including his visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine - to challenge China's bottom line.

In fact, the growing assertiveness of Japan can be partly attributed to the US, as the irresponsible remarks by some US politicians have emboldened the rightist forces in Japan.

No doubt, China and the US do have differences, but they have more interests in common.

China sincerely hopes to establish a new type of major country relations with the US, featuring mutual respect and common prosperity, which is essential for China's peaceful development.

As the world's two largest economies, China and the US have a shared interest in a stable environment to facilitate economic prosperity. Neither country, nor the global economy, can afford confrontation or conflict.

In this regard, Hagel's stay in China is expected to offer a rare opportunity for the the US to clarify its "pivot to Asia" policy and assure China of its friendly intentions, so as to strengthen mutual trust and understanding across the Pacific.

Now the ball is in Hagel's court.

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