President Obama’s pivot to Asia has only raised tensions among countries in the region, a senior Chinese military commander charged on Thursday.
Gen. Fang Fenghui, chief of the general staff of the People’s Liberation Army, blamed Obama’s policy shift for stirring “up some of the problems which actually make the South China Sea and East China Sea not so calm as before,” at a Pentagon news conference.
“I don’t believe the responsibility lies on the Chinese side,” Fang said, alongside Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey. “We do not make trouble. We do not create trouble. But we are not afraid of trouble.”
Fang accused Washington of encouraging Hanoi and Tokyo to make claims on the disputed islands and reefs in the region.
Dempsey, though, backed the administration’s policies and said the U.S. was committed to maintaining a strong presence in the region.
“We’re gonna go because we can and should, and we’ll go because we have to,” the four-star general said of American interests in the Pacific.
He added that the U.S. would defend its allies in the region, citing North Korea.
“We will respond to threats,” he vowed.
Dempsey downplayed the diplomatic flare up, saying the two military leaders had a “refreshingly frank and open discussion” about their concerns in the region. But he warned that “provocative actions can lead to confrontation” and urged cooperation.
“The global maritime environment is simply too large and too complex for any one nation,” he cautioned.
The two generals both highlighted that China next month for the first time will send ships to participate in the annual Rim of the Pacific military exercises near Hawaii.