Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel issued a blunt warning to China that it will not ignore what he said was destabilizing actions in East Asia.

NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports Hagel's comments come after clashes between Chinese and Vietnamese boats in the East China Sea and after Japan said that Chinese fighter jets came within 170 feet of Japanese surveillance aircraft.

Anthony filed this report for our Newscast unit:

"Hagel told a security forum in Singapore that while the US does not take sides in any of the territorial disputes, it firmly opposes any nation's use of intimidation or coercion to assert its claims."'The United States will not look the other way when fundamental principles of the international order are being challenged,' Hagel said. 'We will uphold those principles.'"On Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the forum that Japan would provide patrol boats to the Philippines and Vietnam, both of which are embroiled with China in territorial disputes."

The AP reports that just after Hagel made the comments, a top Chinese general confronted Hagel at the forum.

"You were very candid this morning and, to be frank, more than our expectation," Lt. Gen. Wang Guanzhong told Hagel. "Although I do think that those criticisms are groundless, I do appreciate your candor."

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit