Hagel Has 'Great Confidence in the Responsible Leadership' of China

Speaking at Malaysia's Institute of Defence and Security yesterday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that China's "responsible leadership" could be relied upon to prevent a conflict in Asia.

Hagel said he and his Chinese counterpart, Defense Minister Gen. Chang Wanquan, "spent a considerable amount of time last week talking about the Korean peninsula."

"And he noted very clearly -- and it has been the position of the People's Republic of China, as it has been the United States' position -- that the Korean peninsula must be denuclearized. It is in everyone's interest. That has been our longstanding position, the United States of America," he said.

China's support for its communist brethren in North Korea has long kept the regime propped up.

"China borders North Korea. China is a very important power and influence in -- in Asia, the Pacific. It certainly is an important country with North Korea. So we work with China. We must work with China. And we find the common interests with China, starting with denuclearization of the North Korean peninsula, trying to find a way to accommodate people's interests," Hagel continued at the defense forum.

Hagel vowed not to wade into any regional disagreements about the East China Sea.

"We have said, the United States -- and it is our policy -- that we take no position on those disputes and those issues, that they should be resolved diplomatically, through negotiation, as I said in my remarks here, using international law.  That's for nations to decide and work through," he said. "At the same time, to your point, we have treaty arrangements with Japan, and we have had to make certain that -- and I talked to the Chinese defense minister about this on Monday -- that everybody involved, particularly the Chinese government understand, that we take those treaty obligations seriously."

"I don't get into hypotheticals, what ifs.  That's somebody else's business."

Hagel opined that "the world has had enough war."

"And I think one of the things that we have learned over the years, regardless of the region of the world, is that wars can't resolve differences, and not in the world that we live in today, especially, that is so interconnected and so interdependent. It is a world where we must respect each other and each other's rights," he said.

"So, sure, any open conflict is always possible.  But I have great confidence in the responsible leadership and people of China, as well as the United States. The best way to avoid war is to always be prepared for war... And so we'll continue to work through these issues to find peaceful resolution. They are difficult. And they're not easy. And most of these solutions will be imperfect. And it is about consensus. Each side has to give something on these things."