|No bones to pick at Hagel’s lunch at PLA academy
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recalled his days as an infantryman in Vietnam as he dined on kung pao chicken and dumplings with young Chinese soldiers at a People's Liberation Army, training academy.
“Many, many years ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I was a sergeant in the army,'' he joked today.
The Changping school laid out the red carpet for Hagel, who did his non-commissioned officers training in 1968 after being in combat in the jungles of the Mekong Delta.
The atmosphere was friendly and conversation light, in stark contrast to the rough reception he received Tuesday from top Chinese officials and a roomful of PLA colonels who peppered him with tough questions.
Then, a whole range of disagreements were on display, with critical editorials in Chinese media and a testy exchange with General Fan Changlong, vice chairman of China's Central Military Committee, officials said.
The general told Hagel that China was “dissatisfied'' with his remarks about Beijing's territorial disputes with Japan and other countries, Xinhua reported.
Hagel strongly disagreed and “pushed back,’’ US officials said.
But at the NCO training academy in a northwestern suburb of Beijing, Hagel watched soldiers in combat fatigues drive bulldozers and backhoes in a precision display.
At the canteen, Hagel picked up a tray of kung pao chicken, broccoli and dumplings before having lunch with two Chinese cadets, asking them about their careers in the army.
Non-commissioned officers were a crucial foundation for any military, he told them.
“This is a very important institution. You're the leaders of the next generation so we need the best people.''
The training school is located near the Badaling section of the Great Wall.