Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel criticizes the Chinese Navy as “irresponsible,” saying its actions risk escalating tensions with the United States.
In the highest-level rebuke of Beijing since a Chinese warship nearly collided with an American guided missile cruiser in the South China Sea earlier in December, Secretary of Defense Hagel laid the blame squarely on China for the naval incident.
“That action by the Chinese, cutting in front …100 yards out in front of the Cowpens, was not a responsible action,” Hagel told a news conference on Thursday. “It was unhelpful, it was irresponsible.”
US officials have said that the USS Cowpens had to take evasive action to avoid a collision with a Chinese vessel on December 5. The incident did not become public until last weekend.
The Pentagon chief stressed that the standoff, the first of its kind in several years, underscored the need for clear protocols between the two militaries to avoid a potential confrontation in the Pacific.
“That’s the kind of thing that’s very incendiary, that could be a trigger or a spark that could set off some eventual miscalculation,” Hagel said. The two sides needed to work “to have a mechanism to be able to defuse some of these issues as they occur,” he added.
Critics charge that President Barack Obama’s “pivot” strategy towards Asia and the US military buildup in the Pacific could lead to a potential clash between the two rivals.
“The US needs to recognize that China will not tolerate US military presence in its waters just as the United States will not tolerate Chinese naval ships off the coast of Atlantic City in New Jersey,” investigative journalist Wayne Madsen told Press TV on Wednesday.
“With President Obama’s ‘pivot’ to Asia where he has redirected a lot of US military assets to East Asia, we’re going to see a lot more confrontations like the one we recently saw between a US Navy cruiser and a Chinese aircraft carrier,” Madsen said.
China’s recent declaration of an air defense identification zone over the East China Sea, including air space previously monitored mainly by Japan and South Korea has also put further strain on US-Sino relations.
Beijing has warned Washington to be cautious in its words and actions with regard to China’s territorial disputes with its smaller neighbors.
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