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Hagel says US not 'containing China'

By Zhang Yunbi (China Daily) Updated: 2014-04-09 07:15

Hagel says US not 'containing China'

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel gives a speech at the National Defense University in Beijing on Tuesday. Alex Wong / Reuters

Pentagon chief: Growth in region an opportunity for all countries

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reviewed Washington's vision on military-to-military ties with China and his country's Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy in a speech at China's National Defense University on Tuesday in Beijing.

Hagel made a point to dismiss claims that the US is "containing" China.

"China's tremendous growth, coupled with the continued dynamics of the Asia-Pacific region and America's increasing engagement in the region, offers a historic and strategic opportunity for all nations," Hagel said.

The US defense chief arrived at the campus amid differing opinions and diplomatic rhetoric between Washington and Beijing about China's problems with two US allies - Japan and the Philippines - in the East China Sea and South China Sea.

Hagel said that while the US pivot to the region reaffirms its commitment to its treaty allies, including Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Australia, that move "must not be nor will be at the exclusion of strengthening our relationship with China", Hagel said.

Hagel is the first US defense chief to visit and address the top military education institution in China - the home of outstanding defense talent.

"My first trip to China was in January 1984," Hagel said when recalling his connections with China. He mentioned the many hutong in Beijing as well as the enormous diversity of culture and dialects.

Hagel underlined Washington's priority in safeguarding economic ties with China, which he said has seen its status as a major power "solidified".

Last year, the trade of goods and services between the United States and China exceeded $500 billion, while trade between ASEAN countries and China exceeded $400 billion.

Meanwhile, Hagel admitted that the divergence and the competition between the world's two largest economies should not be ignored and should be carefully handled.

"Both our nations are and will remain Pacific powers - great powers - and in order to deepen mutual understanding, we cannot shy away from addressing difficult issues," he said.

The two nations must deal honestly and directly with each other in confining "disagreements and difficult issues", he said.

The audience greeted Hagel with sharp and straightforward questions.

An officer told Hagel after the speech that "Washington actually has not honored what you have claimed as a fair and objective position" because the US seems to back the Philippines and Japan in cases that involve China's islands.

A military researcher asked the US defense secretary to offer a way to minimize the mistrust between the two nations.

Hagel replied, "We want China to prosper and grow."

"As I said in Japan before I came here, the American rebalance in the Asia-Pacific - our strategic interest - is not to contain China," he said.

'Profound experience'

Song Puxuan, the university president, highlighted Hagel's experience as a Vietnam War veteran when Song introduced Hagel.

"Hagel has a profound experience and background with great knowledge. He used to fight in a war and run a business. He was also a professor," Song said, referring to Hagel's joining the US army in 1967 and serving in Vietnam.

Cementing a bilateral relationship or multilateral relationship requires the spirit of shelving disputes and seeking common ground to ensure a mutual benefit and achieve a win-win situation, Song said.

The speech was greatly inspiring, and "despite the opinions we share or differ, such communications enable us to get a better understanding of the stance and concerns of the other side", Song said.

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