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China skeptical of expanded U.S. role in the Pacific

By Lolita C. Baldor

AP Sports Writer


SINGAPORE >> A Chinese military leader on Saturday pointedly questioned the expanded U.S. role in the Pacific after the Pentagon chief said he hoped for better military ties between the two powers.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in a speech at a security conference in Singapore, also warned China about cyberattacks seemingly linked to Beijing.

He said the U.S. has expressed its concerns about "the growing threat of cyberintrusions, some of which appear to be tied to the Chinese government and military."

Other U.S. officials have publicly blamed China for computer-based attacks that steal data from the U.S. government and corporations, but Hagel's rebuke came in China's backyard and in front of a Chinese delegation.

Maj. Gen. Yao Yunzhu, director of the Center for China-America Defense Relations at the People's Liberation Army's Academy of Military Science, challenged Hagel to better explain America's intentions for its military buildup across the region.

"Thank you for mentioning China several times," she said in the question-and-answer session after Hagel's speech.

She said the Obama administration's new focus on the Pacific has been widely interpreted as an "attempt to counter China's rising influence and to offset the increasing military capabilities of the Chinese PLA. However, China is not convinced."

She asked Hagel how he can assure China that the increased U.S. deployments to the region are part of an effort to build a more positive relationship with Beijing.

"That's really the whole point behind closer military-to-military relationships," Hagel responded. "We don't want miscalculations and misunderstandings and misinterpretations. And the only way you do that is you talk to each other."

The U.S. welcomes a strong and emerging China that takes on responsibilities for security in the region, Hagel said, adding that the countries have to be inclusive and direct with each other. "I think we've made continued progress," he said. "And we'll make more progress."

These matters, and the overall U.S.-China relationship, will be on the agenda for President Barack Obama's meeting next week in California with Chinese President Xi Jinping. It will be their first meeting since Obama's re-election and Xi's promotion to Communist Party chief.

U.S. defense officials said Hagel also broadly raised the issue of cybersecurity in a brief and informal meeting with Lt. Gen. Qi Jianguo, PLA deputy chief, on Friday evening.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to publicly discuss the content of the meeting, said Hagel mentioned plans for the formation of a cyberworking group.

In his speech, Hagel said the U.S. is determined to work closely with China and others to establish appropriate standards for behavior in cyberspace.

The U.S. also is looking to China for help in resolving problems with North Korea, which has raised tensions with a series of rocket launches, an underground nuclear test and threats of nuclear strikes against the U.S. and its allies.

Hagel spoke of the need for "a continuous and respectful dialogue" and said the U.S. and China must build trust in order to avoid military miscalculations.

Much of the speech, however, was designed as a follow-up to last year's gathering, when then-U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta first detailed what has been called the U.S. military's new pivot to the Pacific.

Hagel assured Asian nations that despite sharp budget cuts, the Pentagon will continue to shift troops, ships and aircraft to the Pacific region.

Where Panetta had laid out promises, Hagel was able to point to results. U.S. Marines have been sent to Darwin, Australia, while a U.S. combat ship has arrived in Singapore and plans are unfolding for U.S. Army units to rotate in and out of the region.

Hagel suggested that the Pentagon's five-year budget plan continues to anticipate additional F-22 Raptor fighter jets and F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in the region, along with a fourth fast-attack submarine deployed to Guam.

He provided a glimpse into the broad review he ordered to determine whether budget cuts will force the U.S. military strategy to change, a year after Panetta unveiled it.

International leaders have been watching the deliberations in Washington closely to see what the roughly $487 billion in automatic spending cuts over the next 10 years will mean to America's commitment's abroad.

Already the military services have curtailed flight and combat training for many units, grounded some Air Force squadrons and delayed or canceled some ship deployments.

The Pentagon also has said it will furlough about 680,000 civilian employees for up to 11 days through the end of the fiscal year.

The initial report on the strategy review was due to Hagel on Friday, and while he said the outcome is not final, it should reflect the rise of Asia.

"For the region, this means I can assure you that coming out of this review, the United States will continue to implement the rebalance and prioritize our posture, activities and investments in Asia-Pacific," he said.

The Asia-Pacific, Hagel said, is at the epicenter of historic changes around the world and the U.S. is committed to strengthening its military, economic and diplomatic partnerships with nations across the region.

As part of that he noted that the U.S. will set aside $100 million to expand its military exercises in the region.

Just finishing his third month as Pentagon Chief, Hagel used the speech to introduce himself on a more personal level to the audience. For many he is a familiar face. He was one of the founders of the conference in 2002, and as a U.S. senator, was a speaker at the first three gatherings.

He talked about his long ties to the region, including his father's service in World War II flying B-25 bombers in the South Pacific, and his own service in Vietnam with his brother. Hagel was wounded and twice received the Purple Heart.

Later, he traveled to Asia as the co-founder of a cellular telephone company and then, as a Republican senator from Nebraska, he served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"What I took away from all these experiences," Hagel said, "was a firm belief that the arc of the 21st century would be shaped by events here in Asia."

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allie wrote:
This must be good news to a state that depends so much on the expansion of the American empire. Even the Sovs. out here depend on the cash.
on June 2,2013 | 12:35PM
cojef wrote:
Do not underestimate the Chinese. The "long march" nation is capable of a long and protracted war and certainly with our economy in a mess with humongous debt will not be able to outlast the Chinese. Our military is stretched to the maximum and instead of we fighting on their turf we will be surprised the next war will be on our turf.
on June 2,2013 | 02:20PM
localguy wrote:
Before you declare a winner to the war, something to remember. China for all its bluster has a totally unproven, untested, no/zero/nada combat experienced military. No one in their military has any of the combat experience the USA does. We have fought wars all over the world, China's last war was with Vietnam back in the 70s, was just a border skirmish. Remember too the Russians had advanced military equipment but were unable to maintain or operate it safely. They still have problems. Oh, China had a crash with their high speed rail system, killing people. Even the Chinese had to admit Japan had operated their highspeed rail for decades with no accidents/deaths. Also remember how many times other countries military forces were declared "Elite" and the US Military rolled through them like they were not there. Think about it before you post again.
on June 2,2013 | 07:02PM
HD36 wrote:
Experts say they will implement asymetrical warfare. They know our military is too strong. They will attack the dollar and its status as the world's reserve currency. Simultaneously, they are building up their gold reserves, creating bilateral trade agreements, increasing their financial status by offering bonds denominated in renenbi, and ceasing purchases of long term US Treasury bonds. When they start to sell, interest rates will increase. At 4.5% the government will be paying more than 50% of revenues to pay just the interest on the debt. I don't even want to think about the massive cuts should interest rates rise to a historcal norm of 6.5%
on June 2,2013 | 09:59PM
mitt_grund wrote:
This is really weird. The U.S., which is across the Pacific, has a right to be in Asia and flex its muscles and tell those frightened Asians what to do, and China, which is right there, has no right to protect its interests? Typical white, Western supremacist gibberish! When we recognize that both nations, as well as all Asian nations have their national interests at stake, we can begin to be more logical at arriving at international solutions.All the chest-thumping by "patriotic" gorillas will only get us more unwarranted wars.
on June 3,2013 | 07:52AM
Mythman wrote:
China - there would be no China as Mao created it without the US, via Harry Truman, backing down on support the nationalists and more recently without the world economy taking advantage of one of the last unequal systems, with a vast number of low wage "slaves" to produce goods for everyone else to buy. Isn't it ironic that these wages instead of going to the capitalist class went instead to the Party and how many days or weeks can it be before the army and the party are no longer separate organs. come on, now. War is looming and let's get ready, Hawaii....
on June 2,2013 | 04:26PM
9ronboz wrote:
While china is looking to expand in central, south america
on June 2,2013 | 04:56PM
pcman wrote:
US and China are 'engaged' in planning for joint military operations and exercises for humanitarian and natural disaster assistance. China will participate in RIMPAC next year and they will find out that over a dozen countries In the Pacific and Asia have already been engaged to work together militarily. Hopefully, military respect and understanding will prevent any kind of war in the future.
on June 2,2013 | 05:10PM
HD36 wrote:
Even before the Reagan 7% top line trillion dollar increase in the Pentagon's budget, we had hundreds of submarines and naval craft that can rain down thousands of independant nuclear warheads from over a 700 mile range. In our military buildup against the former Soviet Union during the Reagan years, we built up a military force that could defeat the world, twice over.
on June 2,2013 | 09:47PM
loquaciousone wrote:
I read an article that claimed that China will soon surpass the United States economy......if they don't poison themselves to death first.
on June 3,2013 | 07:09AM
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