TOKYO — U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel delivered a two-pronged warning to Asia Pacific nations on Sunday, announcing that the United States will send two more ballistic missile destroyers to Japan to counter the North Korean threat, and saying China must better respect its neighbors.
Mr. Hagel drew a direct line between Russia’s takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea region and the territorial disputes among China, Japan, and others over remote islands in the East China Sea.
“I think we’re seeing some clear evidence of a lack of respect and intimidation and coercion in Europe today with what the Russians have done with Ukraine,” Mr. Hagel said after talks with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera.
“We must be very careful and we must be very clear, all nations of the world, that in the 21st century this will not stand, you cannot go around the world and redefine boundaries and violate territorial integrity and sovereignty of nations by force, coercion, and intimidation, whether it’s in small islands in the Pacific or large nations in Europe.”
Mr. Hagel, who will travel to China this week, called the Asian nation a “great power,” and added, “with this power comes new and wider responsibilities as to how you use that power, how you employ that military power.”
He said he will talk to the Chinese about having respect for their neighbors. “All nations, all people deserve respect no matter how large or how small,” Mr. Hagel said.
The defense chief said he looks forward to a straightforward dialogue with the Chinese about how the two nations and their militaries can work better together.
The deployment of added destroyers was announced as tensions with North Korea spiked again, with Pyongyang continuing to threaten additional missile and nuclear tests.
The North has conducted rocket and ballistic missile launches that are considered acts of protest against annual ongoing springtime military exercises by Seoul and Washington.
North Korea says the exercises are rehearsals for invasion.
North and South Korea also fired hundreds of artillery shells into each other’s waters in late March in the most recent flare-up.
Mr. Hagel said the two ships are being deployed in response to North Korea’s “pattern of provocative and destabilizing actions” that violate U.N. resolutions and also will provide more protection to the United States from those threats.
The two ships would bring the total to seven U.S. ballistic missile defense warships in Japan.