Hagel Talks Tough in China and Warns Threat of 'Dangerous Conflict'

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U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel offered some tough talk during his visit to China Tuesday, saying Beijing's tactics over its disputed islands had the potential to result in a "dangerous conflict."

Hagel and his Chinese counterpart, Defense Minister Chang Wanquan, aired their countries' views on the disputed islands, including those known as the Senkaku Islands by Japan and the Diaoyu Islands by China.

The defense secretary criticized an air defense zone set up by China that covers a large area of the South China Sea, including the Senkakus/Diaoyus. Chang said his government would take necessary steps to control its territory.

"Every nation has a right to establish an air defense zone, but not a right to do it unilaterally with no collaboration, no consultation," Hagel told a joint press conference in Beijing after hours of meetings with Chang during his first visit to China as defense secretary.

"That adds to tensions, misunderstandings, and could eventually add to, and eventually get to, dangerous conflict."

Chang countered that the international community needed to be wary of Japan, a country which "confounds right from wrong...holds nuclear material far above its needs," and was guilty of stirring up trouble in the region.

He added: "China has undisputed sovereignty over the Diayou islands," and criticized the Philippines, with whom it also has territorial disputes.

Hagel responded by saying that the U.S., Japan, and the Philippines "are long time allies. We have defense treaties with them and we are fully committed to those treaty obligations."

He also challenged China to take a tougher stance on North Korea.

- Alexander Smith