Pentagon, United States (4E) – In a bid to boost military relations with regional partners, Pentagon Chief Chuck Hagel will embark on his weeklong Southeast Asia tour from Thursday.
On the first leg of his trip, he will visit Malaysia, then Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines. All these regional countries are facing maritime disputes with Asian superpower China.
The defense secretary will also meet his ASEAN counterparts on August 28-29 in Brunei where ministers are likely to discuss the ongoing territorial dispute in resource-rich South China Sea on which China virtually claims overall sovereignty.
Hagel is also considering talking with Chinese Defense Minister General Chang Wanquan, who recently visited Washington to promote progress in Sino-U.S. military ties, on the sidelines of the two-day ASEAN session in Bandar Seri Begawan.
However, Wanquan had told Washington that it would not hesitate to defend its “core interests” and “maritime rights.”