Hagel heads for meeting with Asian defense ministers

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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will depart Thursday on a tour of Southeast Asia to meet with U.S. allies increasingly concerned over China’s aggressive pursuit of its maritime territorial claims.

Mr. Hagel will visit Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines during the eight-day trip, with a meeting of defense ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) next week serving as the capstone for his itinerary.

The 10 ASEAN nations are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Mr. Hagel will begin his trip in Honolulu, where he will meet with Adm. Samuel J. Locklear, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, and visit with Marines at Kaneohe Bay, Defense Department spokesman George Little said.

The trip originally WAS announced by officials Tuesday as Mr. Hagel and Gen. Chang Wanquan, the Chinese defense minister, met at the Pentagon.

Both sides touted progress in U.S.-China military relations after the meeting. But Gen. Chang made clear that China would continue to staunchly defend its “core interests” and assert what it calls its “maritime rights” over disputed territory in the South China Sea.

ASEAN states have been trying for more than a decade to secure agreement from China on a legally binding code of conduct for the sea.

Gen. Chang and Mr. Hagel will meet again next week, when both will be in Brunei for the ASEAN defense ministers summit.

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About the Author
Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...

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