In remarks directed at China, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke of a “growing threat” of cyber attacks against the United States and called on America and its allies to “establish international norms of responsible behavior in cyberspace.”
Speaking to an audience of defense analysts and defense ministers from Asia and Europe at the annual conference of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Mr. Hagel said the United States was “clear-eyed about the challenges in cyber.”
“The United States has expressed our concerns about the growing threat of cyber intrusions, some of which appear to be tied to the Chinese government and military,” he said in a speech largely devoted to the Obama administration’s defense posture in Asia. At the same time, Mr. Hagel emphasized the need for more talks between the American and Chinese militaries to build trust and reduce the risk of miscalculation at a time of mounting rivalry.
His remarks were immediately challenged by a Chinese general in a question-and-answer session after his speech. A delegate to the conference, Maj. Gen. Yao Yunzhu, director of the Center for China-America Defense Relations at the Academy of Military Science in Beijing, said she was not convinced — and China was not convinced — that the United States wanted a “comprehensive” relationship with China. The new American policy in Asia and the Pacific amounts to containment of China, General Yao said.
Speaking a week before a summit meeting in California between President Obama and China’s new leader, Xi Jinping, Mr. Hagel sought to reassure Washington’s nervous Asian allies, who are concerned about China’s expanding naval activities, that the United States would maintain its presence in the region.
Over all, he said, the United States will keep its “decisive military edge,” an oblique but distinct reference to American military superiority. China announced an 11.2 percent increase in military spending last year, part of its rapid military modernization.
He emphasized that new technologies would entail spending fewer resources in a smarter way, saying that the Navy had launched an experimental drone from an aircraft carrier last month for the first time. It was a feat that ushered in a new era of naval aviation, he said. Unstated, but understood by many in the audience, was the fact that China just last year put into service its first aircraft carrier, an old Ukrainian vessel refitted by the Chinese.
Mr. Hagel also said the United States would deploy a solid-state laser aboard the Ponce, a naval vessel, next year. He said it would provide “an affordable answer” to counter threats like “missiles, swarming small boats and remotely piloted aircraft.”
He said that the first of four littoral combat ships to rotate through Singapore had recently arrived, and that he would visit the ship, the Freedom, on Sunday. The littoral combat ship is a new class of speedy war vessels that can operate on the ocean and in shallow coastal waters. Each costs $700 million, the Pentagon says.
In a feisty address that opened the conference, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung of Vietnam laid bare the rising regional tensions by repeatedly lamenting the lack of trust between China and its neighbors, and between China and the United States, although he did not mention China by name.
Regional organizations are supposed to take care of such tensions, he said, but what is “still missing is strategic trust in the implementation of these arrangements.”
As evidence of the problems, several diplomats from nations allied with the United States said they were concerned about a new map of the South China Sea that was issued last week by Sinomaps Press, the Chinese mapping authority. Beijing has long claimed the islands and land “features” within a nine-dash line drawn decades ago on maps of the South China Sea, a vital trade route where China is growing more assertive.
About 80 percent of the South China Sea is inside that line, which was first drawn up by China in 1947 before the Communist takeover. The boundary is not recognized by any other country but has been the basis of China’s territorial claims to islands like the Scarborough Shoal, which it effectively seized from the Philippines last year.
The new map, according to Asian diplomats who have seen it, takes a further step and redesignates the nine-dash line as a national boundary. Its release was delayed from late last year so that it could be formally authorized by the Chinese senior leadership, according to a senior Asian diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the matter.
Wu Shicun, a Chinese official at the conference, denied that the new map showed national boundaries. Instead, he said, it shows new lines around the islands that China calls the Diaoyu, a group in the East China Sea that Japan, which calls them the Senkaku, nationalized in September, leading Beijing to claim them.
At the time, China said the lines around the islands were drawn in accordance with Chinese law. A recent Pentagon report said they did not comport with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. (The New York Times)