SINGAPORE - Rarely does a top Chinese government official take questions from foreign reporters in an open setting. But today, Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie addressed the 10th annual IISS Shangri-La Security Dialogue and took several questions, including one set from your humble Cable guy.
We asked him to react to yesterday's announcement by Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the U.S. would increase its military presence and involvement in Southeast Asia, which is widely seen as a response to Chinese assertiveness in the region and China's recent aggressive actions in the heavily disputed South China Sea. We also asked him what the Chinese response would be and whether China's development of anti-access and area denial weaponry was contributing to an arms race in Southeast Asia.
Liang spent most of his answer praising recent improvements in the U.S.-China military to military relationship, as Gates had done all weekend as part of the joint effort to portray a warming of ties. But Liang ended his remarks by claiming that in the South China Sea, "the freedom of navigation has never been impeded, has never been a problem, and the situation in the South China Sea remains stable."
The Chinese officers in the room next door were clearly not happy with the Cable's questions, one conference delegate told us after the session, and they were asking other conference goers for details about this "rude American reporter."
Watch the entire exchange here: