Speed Reads

foreign affairs

Secretary of Defense Hagel's strong criticism draws Chinese ire

Pablo Martinez Monsivais - Pool/Getty Images

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel spoke at an Asian security conference earlier today, and his remarks did not go over well with Chinese officials, The Washington Post reports.

Calling China's attempts to control air and sea lanes "destabilizing, unilateral actions," Hagel went on to make what Chinese officials said were threatening comments about the United States' response to such actions: "We take no position on competing territorial claims," Hagel said. "But we firmly oppose any nation's use of intimidation, coercion or the threat of force to assert these claims."

Chinese media printed a response made by Lt. Gen. Wang Guanzhong, who is deputy chief of staff of China's military. Guanzhong said Hagel's remarks were "excessive beyond…imagination," and "suffused with hegemonism…threats and intimidation."

The conflicting statements come at a time when tensions are running high between Asian nations; China is entrenched in a number of maritime disputes, most of which are considered aggressive attempts to gain more control over neighboring countries in the region. The Obama administration has previously been careful to maintain its relationship with Beijing, so Hagel's strong remarks were seen as an about-face by officials from some of the Asian countries that have been appealing to Washington for support in the disputes.