No one should underestimate China’s “will and determination” to defend its territory, sovereignty and maritime rights, Chinese Minister of National Defense General Chang Wanquan (常萬全) said in Washington on Monday.
He was speaking following a private Pentagon meeting with US Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel that almost certainly included talks on Taiwan.
While Taiwan was not mentioned by name during a later press conference, it may have been the subject of several veiled references.
“The current situation in the Asia-Pacific region is generally stable, but there remains some hotspots and sensitive issues,” Chang said.
“Some hot issues are heating, while some other sensitive issues are getting even more sensitive,” he said.
Chang said that “improper handling” of these issues could lead to a “severe impact on the overall security situation in the region.”
Disputes should be solved through dialogue and negotiation, he said, but “no one should fantasize that China would barter away our core interests.”
Any action that leads to trouble or provocation, or further complicates or magnifies problems “would be highly irresponsible and will not lead to a favorable result,” he said.
It was Hagel’s first Pentagon meeting with Chang, who spent Friday in Hawaii for talks at US Pacific Command and was at US Northern Command in Colorado over the weekend.
The defense ministers are believed to have discussed cyberattacks, disputes between China and Japan, East China Sea and South China Sea territorial boundaries and resources, and arms sales to Taiwan.
Hagel said during a speech in June at a regional security forum in Singapore that the US strongly supported efforts by Taiwan and China to improve bilateral ties.
“We have an enduring interest in peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” he said.
“The United States is committed to building a positive and constructive relationship with China,” Hagel said following the meeting.
“One of the themes we emphasized today was that a sustained, substantive military-to-military relationship is an important pillar for this strong bilateral relationship,” Hagel said.
He said that one goal was to build trust between the two militaries “through cooperation.”
Chang said that he had a “candid and deepening exchange of views,” with Hagel touching on national and military relations, international and regional security issues, and “other issues of common concerns.”
He said they both agreed that military-to-military relations were important, that they should strengthen high-level visits, that the two militaries have “an increasingly important responsibility” to keep the peace in the Asia-Pacific region and share wide common interests in “nontraditional” security areas.
Chang also said the People’s Liberation Army would help the US to search for the remains of soldiers missing-in-action.
“The China-US relationship is in a new historical era,” he said.
“What is the most important is China is ready to work with the US to maintain the regional peace and stability,” Chang said.