HARBIN, CHINA – JANUARY 21: (CHINA OUT) Smokes rise from the buildings surrounded by heavy smog on January 21, 2016 in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province of China. The visibility in the city fell as the smog hit Harbin On Thursday. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
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Senior U.S. officials headed into a meeting of global defense chiefs in Singapore with a carefully-calibrated message for China on its actions in the disputed South China Sea, urging it to cooperate better with other countries.
The annual Shangri-La Dialogue brings together ministers alongside heads of military, and has become a lightning rod for tensions over China’s military buildup in the South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. In recent years, China has reclaimed more than three thousand acres in waters also contested in part by countries like Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.
In 2014, the forum descended into acrimony after then-U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called China’s actions destabilizing, prompting Lieutenant General Wang Guanzhong to deviate from his scripted remarks the next day to describe Hagel’s words as “full of hegemony, full of words of threat and intimidation.”