SINGAPORE - A Chinese general on Sunday slammed Japan and the United States for making provocative remarks against China at a regional security forum in Singapore.
In an unexpected response, Lieutenant-General Wang Guanzhong, deputy chief the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army, accused Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel of "coordinating" and "supporting" each other in their comments targeted at China.
Mr Wang, who deviated halfway through his prepared speech at a plenary session on the closing day of the Shangri-La Dialogue, organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said that the fact that Mr Abe and Mr Hagel, leaders of two major countries, had made such "unwanted criticisms against China is unimaginable".
"It was completely out of my expectation," the Chinese general blasted.
In his keynote address at the opening of the forum on Friday, Mr Abe had outlined his vision for a more robust Japanese role in the region's peace and security, arguing that no country could secure peace on its own in a complex new environment.
Although Mr Abe did not directly name China as being the country responsible for the change, there was little doubt he was targeting at China as he repeatedly used language that Tokyo had employed in criticising Beijing's behaviour in the region's territorial disputes.
"Movement to consolidate changes to the status quo by aggregating one fait accompli after another can only be strongly condemned," Mr Abe said in his speech.
On Saturday, Mr Hagel denounced China's "destabilising, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea", at the same forum.
"In recent months, China has undertaken destabilising, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea," Mr Hagel said in his speech.
Not mincing his words, Mr Wang on Sunday hit back at Mr Abe for his veiled comments, saying that "it is better to be more direct", referring to Mr Hagel's blunt remarks.
Mr Wang, who only got to speak on the last day of the three-day forum, criticised Mr Abe and Mr Hagel for "taking advantage of speaking first and staged provocative actions and challenges against China".
"Hagel's speech was full of hegemony, full of words of threat and intimidation. It was a speech to abet destabilising factors to create trouble and make provocations. It was not a constructive speech," Mr Wang said.
"China has never taken the first step to provoke troubles," Mr Wang said, referring to territorial and maritime disputes Beijing has with several neighbouring states.
"China has only forced to respond to provocative action by other parties."
Mr Wang said remarks by Mr Abe and Mr Hagel had gone against the spirit of constructive discussion of the Shangri-La Dialogue.
"Who is actually making provocations and creating trouble and differences? Who is being assertive?" asked Mr Wang.