Chuck Hagel on Egypt, China and the Pacific

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Media captionUS Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel: Full interview with the BBC's Jon Sopel

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has given a wide-reaching interview to the BBC in which he said the US was ready to launch a military strike on Syria if President Barack Obama gave the word.

He also talked about US foreign policy in other parts of the world.

The interview opened with a question about one of the Obama administration's central foreign policy initiatives - the so-called pivot to Asia. Mr Hagel was asked whether the shift towards the Pacific region was real or just rhetorical.

Here is a selection of his remarks on that and other issues.

The Pacific shift

The US has been a Pacific power for many, many years - our relationships, our partnerships here in the region have been defined by our cultural interests, our economic, our trade, our commercial, our security, our defence [interests].

And when you look at this part of the world - the population, the growth, the potential - what this clearly says is that this area of the world is going to continue to be a significant part of redefining international affairs.

China and cyber-security

This is not about encircling China or anybody else, this is about economic interests, it's about the world, it's about prosperity, stability and security.

We have differences [on cyber security] and we've made very clear those differences. I think you look first at the recent meetings between President Xi and President Obama, they had some very frank direct conversations.

When I was with their defence minister the other day in Washington we spent a considerable amount of time talking about that. We have a working group of American and Chinese to work through these differences. So yes it's an issue, yes we have differences, but the only way to get through those differences is to work through them.

North Korea

Just a few months ago they were threatening to lob nuclear-tipped missiles at the United States, now I think there is a gap in the rhetoric you're talking about versus what the rhetoric was a few months ago.

We've said we'd like to - and we will - reach out and normalise relations with the North Koreans, but a few things have to happen first, and the Chinese have said this.

Denuclearise the Korean peninsula, no nuclear weapons. They have to comply with international UN mandates and resolutions on nuclear power, they've got to come clean, let people come in and inspect, so they understand what needs to happen, what they need to do if they want to be a responsible member of the world community.


The interim government has to get back on the path to reconciliation, stop the violence, put Egypt back on the path of economic democratic reform. Now do you do that best by cutting off all aid? Maybe eventually that happens but I don't think you can take that approach initially, you have to respond and we've made it clear what we'd like to see happen.

We want allies, we want relationships, we want partnerships. We've had strong partnerships with Egypt for many years starting with the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt that the US brokered in 1979 that essentially prevented the region from breaking out into a regional war.

Egypt has played a responsible part of that, been a very responsible partner. We wouldn't necessarily agree with the forms of government, the dictatorships, but you talk about self-interest, we would not want to see the disintegration of a relationship with a large important country like Egypt and the Egyptian people who we've had a relationship with, of course not.

So we've tried to help where we can within the boundaries where we can affect influence where we can. You can't go in and impose, it's up to the Egyptian people what kind of future they want and what kind of government they want.

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