Chinese army general Wang Guanzhonghas accused Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe and US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel of having “provocative” speeches against China at an Asian security forum in Singapore.
He said Chuck Hagel and Shinzo Abe’s comments at this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue summit were “unacceptable”.
Chuck Hagel had earlier said China was “destabilizing” the South China Sea.
Meanwhile, PM Shinzo Abe had vowed to give greater support to South-East Asian countries.
The forum, which brings together the US and South-East Asian countries, comes amid growing tensions between China, Vietnam and the Philippines, with Japan-China ties also strained over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
General Wang Guanzhonghas accused Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe and US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel of having provocative speeches against China
Apparently deviating from his prepared speech, Wang Guanzhong accused PM Shinzo Abe and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel of coordinating and encouraging each other to attack China in their remarks.
He said it was “unimaginable” to receive such “unwanted criticisms against China”.
In a keynote address on Friday, Shinzo Abe outlined his vision for a more robust role in resolving territorial disputes in the region.
He also offered to provide coastal boats to neighboring countries wary of Beijing’s tactics.
Chinese officials responded at the time by saying Shinzo Abe was using the “myth” of a China threat to strengthen Japan’s security policy.
Chuck Hagel later weighed in, accusing China of threatening the region’s long-term progress by undertaking “destabilizing, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea”.
He warned the US would “not look the other way” when nations ignored international rules.
Tensions have flared recently, with China declaring an air defense zone in the East China Sea and adopting a more confrontational stance over the disputed islands in the South China Sea, correspondents say.
They say that although some ASEAN members will be reluctant to antagonize China because of their economic and political ties, others are likely to welcome an increased role from Japan.
Beijing claims a U-shaped swathe of the South China Sea that covers areas other South-East Asian nations say are their territory.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has toured the Liaoning – China’s first aircraft carrier – at the beginning of a three-day visit to the country.
Chuck Hagel, who arrived in the port of Qingdao from Japan, is thought to be the first senior Western official to board the vessel.
China bought it from Ukraine in 1998 and has spent 10 years refitting it.
It is seen as a potent symbol of China’s ambition to modernize its navy, amid a strategic shift in the region.
The fact that Chuck Hagel was allowed to step on board the carrier will be seen as a sign that the two countries may be willing to engage in more military co-operation.
Washington has repeatedly called for more transparency from Beijing on its military spending.
Chuck Hagel has toured the Liaoning – China’s first aircraft carrier – at the beginning of a three-day visit to the country (photo AFP)
US officials said that Chuck Hagel’s visit to the Liaoning at Yuchi naval base – which took place after a US request – lasted about two hours.
No further details were immediately available and journalists accompanying him on the China visit did not go with him.
The carrier was built in the 1980s for the Soviet navy but was never completed.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the rusting hull – then called the Varyag – sat in dockyards in Ukraine.
A Chinese company with links to China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) then bought the Varyag, saying it wanted to turn the vessel into a floating casino in Macau.
In 2001, the ship was towed to China. The Chinese military confirmed in June 2011 that it was being refitted to serve as the nation’s first aircraft carrier.
Earlier this year, it completed sea trials in the South China Sea, where China has overlapping territorial claims with several South East Asian nations.
Beijing’s more assertive stance on this issue in recent years has led to a rise in tensions between China and its neighbors, particularly Vietnam and the Philippines.
China is also embroiled in a separate dispute over East China Sea islands that are controlled by Japan.
In Tokyo, Chuck Hagel addressed regional territorial disputes, saying Chinese authorities should have “respect for their neighbors”.
“You cannot… redefine boundaries and violate territorial integrity and sovereignty of nations by force, coercion and intimidation, whether it’s in small islands in the Pacific or large nations in Europe,” he said.
The Liaoning aircraft carrier has already attracted controversy. Late last year, Chuck Hagel criticized China as “irresponsible” after the near-collision of a US warship and a Chinese naval vessel in the South China Sea.
The US said its guided missile cruiser, USS Cowpens, was operating in international waters on December 5 when the Chinese vessel – which was accompanying the Liaoning – forced it to take evasive action.
Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel has unveiled plans to shrink the US Army to what is expected to be its smallest size since before World War Two.
An entire class of Air Force attack jets was tipped to be axed under the plans, as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel outlines his 2015 budget.
Chuck Hagel is expected to propose trimming the active-duty Army to between 440,000 and 450,000 personnel.
The US military is under pressure to downsize after two costly foreign wars.
The number of active-duty US Army members is already expected to be pared down to 490,000, as the US prepares to end its combat role in Afghanistan later this year.
Referring to budget pressures, Chuck Hagel said at the Pentagon on Monday: “The reality of reduced resources and a changing strategic environment requires us to prioritize and make difficult choices.”
Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel has unveiled plans to shrink the US Army to what is expected to be its smallest size since before World War Two
Noting there are currently about 520,000 active-duty US Army members, Chuck Hagel will also say according to prepared remarks: “Since we are no longer sizing the force for prolonged stability operations, an Army of this size is larger than required to meet the demands of our defense strategy.”
The proposed Army staffing levels would be the lowest since before the US entered World War Two in 1940, when 267,000 active-duty members were employed.
By the end of that conflict, 8.2 million active-duty US Army members were employed.
The figure peaked at 1.6 million both during the Korean War, in 1952, and during the Vietnam War, in 1968.
The number was 482,000 in 2000, a year before the attacks of September 11, 2001.
After those attacks, the force peaked at 566,000 in 2010.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Chuck Hagel will also recommend reducing housing allowances and other benefits, limiting pay raises and increasing healthcare premiums.
However, the military cost-cutting drive could well cause ructions on Capitol Hill, which is gearing up for November’s midterm elections.
The plan is said to take into account government cutbacks as well as President Barack Obama’s pledge to end land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Under the proposed cuts, the military would still be able to defeat any adversary, unnamed officials told that newspaper, but be too small to engage in protracted foreign occupations.
The US has signed a deal to use a Romanian air base as a transit point for American forces leaving Afghanistan, officials have said.
The agreement was reached at bilateral talks at the Pentagon.
The move will allow the US to switch its flight operations to Romania from Kyrgyzstan’s Manas air base, when the US lease there expires in July 2014.
Washington plans to withdraw most of its 52,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
The US wants to keep a smaller force in the country after the deadline, but is still negotiating key details with the government in Kabul.
The US has signed a deal to use a Romanian air base as a transit point for American forces leaving Afghanistan
The deal about the use of Romania’s Mihail Kogalniceanu air base was agreed during the talks between US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Romanian Defense Minister Mircea Dusa.
In a statement, Pentagon spokesman George Little said Chuck Hagel “praised this agreement, which is particularly important as the US prepares to wind down transit centre operations at Manas”.
“Secretary Hagel highlighted this agreement as a further testament to Romania’s steadfast commitment to the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) mission and its commitment to regional and international security.”
However, the details of the deal were not released. The base is near the Black Sea town of Constanta.
In June, Kyrgyzstan’s parliament voted to end the US lease on Manas in July 2014.
The US pays $60 million each year to lease the base, which has been in operation since 2001.
Russia also has an air base in Kyrgyzstan, for which it agreed a 15-year extension last year.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has announced that most of the 400,000 US defense department staff sent home amid the US government shutdown have been told to return to work next week.
Chuck Hagel said the decision was based on an interpretation of the Pay Our Military Act.
A budget row between Republicans and Democrats has forced the closure of federal services for five days now.
But the sides have now voted to approve back-pay for the 800,000 federal workers sent home without salaries.
Chuck Hagel has announced that most of the 400,000 US defense department staff sent home amid the US government shutdown have been told to return to work next week
In a rare moment of bipartisan co-operation, the House of Representatives on Saturday approved by 407-0 a bill to pay the federal workers once the shutdown ends.
There remains no sign of any deal on the federal budget, however.
Republicans who control the House of Representatives have refused to approve the budget, saying they would only do so if President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law was delayed or stripped of funding.
Barack Obama and the Democrats have refused, noting the law was passed in 2010, subsequently approved by the Supreme Court, and was a central issue in the 2012 election which Obama won.
The Pay Our Military Act was passed by Congress shortly before the shutdown.
Chuck Hagel said earlier in the week he wanted to find a way to get his civilian staff back to work.
He said lawyers had told him the Pay Our Military Act permitted employees “whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members” to be exempted.
“I expect us to be able to significantly reduce – but not eliminate – civilian furloughs under this process,” Chuck Hagel said.
The US forces are “ready” to launch strikes on Syria if President Barack Obama chooses to order an attack, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announces.
“We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take,” said Chuck Hagel.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has said there is “undeniable” proof that Syria had used chemical weapons.
The UK Parliament is to be recalled on Thursday to discuss possible responses.
Britain is considering military responses to the attack.
British PM David Cameron, who has cut short his holiday and returned to London, said MPs would vote on a “clear motion” on the crisis.
Syria’s allies, Russia and China, have stepped up their warnings against military intervention in Syria, with Moscow saying any such action would have “catastrophic consequences” for the region.
Meanwhile Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said he rejected “utterly and completely” claims that Syrian forces had used chemical weapons.
The Syrian government has blamed rebel fighters for the suspected chemical attack, which took place on August 21 near the Syrian capital Damascus, and reportedly killed more than 300 people.
On Monday, UN chemical weapons inspectors were fired on while investigating one of the five alleged attack sites around Damascus.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that the US forces are “ready” to launch strikes on Syria if President Barack Obama chooses to order an attack
Chuck Hagel said the US Department of Defense had provided President Barack Obama with “all options for all contingencies”.
He said that intelligence currently being gathered by the UN inspectors would confirm that the Syrian government was responsible for the chemical attacks last week.
“I think it’s pretty clear that chemical weapons were used against people in Syria,” he said.
“I think the intelligence will conclude that it wasn’t the rebels who used it, and there’ll probably be pretty good intelligence to show is that the Syria government was responsible. But we’ll wait and determine what the facts and the intelligence bear out.”
Chuck Hagel’s remarks come a day after John Kerry accused the Syrian government of destroying evidence of its chemical weapons use in Damascus by shelling the area.
He said his administration had additional information about the attacks that it would make public in the days ahead. John Kerry described the assaults as a “moral obscenity”.
“What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality,” John Kerry said at a news conference on Monday.
“Make no mistake, President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people.”
The UN Security Council is divided, with Russia and China opposing military intervention and the UK and France warning that the UN could be bypassed if there was “great humanitarian need”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said there was no evidence that an attack had taken place or who was responsible.
The UN says more than 100,000 people have been killed since the uprising against President Assad began more than two years ago. The conflict has produced more than 1.7 million registered refugees.
Models for possible intervention
Iraq 1991: US-led global military coalition, anchored in international law; explicit mandate from UN Security Council to evict Iraqi forces from Kuwait
Balkans 1990s: US arms supplied to anti-Serb resistance in Croatia and Bosnia in defiance of UN-mandated embargo; later US-led air campaign against Serb paramilitaries. In 1999, US jets provided bulk of 38,000 NATO sorties against Serbia to prevent massacres in Kosovo – legally controversial with UN Security Council resolutions linked to “enforcement measures”
Somalia 1992-93: UN Security Council authorized creation of international force with aim of facilitating humanitarian supplies as Somali state failed. Gradual US military involvement without clear objective culminated in Black Hawk Down disaster in 1993. US troops pulled out
Libya 2011: France and UK sought UN Security Council authorization for humanitarian operation in Benghazi in 2011. Russia and China abstained but did not veto resolution. Air offensive continued until fall of Gaddafi.
The Pentagon has decided to move its forces closer to Syria as the US weighs its options in the conflict there, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has suggested.
Chuck Hagel gave no details, but media reports say the US Navy is strengthening its presence in the eastern Mediterranean.
On Friday, President Barack Obama said fresh allegations of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government this week was of “grave concern”.
Syria’s main ally Russia said there was evidence rebels were behind the attack.
Chuck Hagel has suggested that the Pentagon is moving its forces closer to Syria as the US weighs its options in the conflict there
The Syrian opposition, however, has said hundreds died in a government assault on the outskirts of Damascus on Wednesday.
Despite calls from many different countries, there is no sign yet that the Syrian authorities will allow a UN inspection team to visit to investigate the claims.
The UN’s disarmament chief, Angela Kane, is due to arrive in Damascus on Saturday to push for access to the site. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he is determined to “conduct a thorough, impartial and prompt investigation” into the events.
Unverified footage shows civilians – many of them children – dead or suffering from what appear to be horrific symptoms as a result of the attack.
Chuck Hagel said President Barack Obama had asked the Pentagon for options on Syria, amid rising pressure on the US to intervene.
“The defense department has responsibility to provide the president with options for all contingencies,” he said.
“That requires positioning our forces, positioning our assets, to be able to carry out different options – whatever options the president might choose.”
Chuck Hagel was speaking to reporters travelling with him to Malaysia.
Earlier, US defense officials said a fourth US warship – armed with cruise missiles – had been moved into the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
The officials stressed that the US Navy had received no orders to prepare for military action.
President Barack Obama has decided to give 5% of his salary back to the government to show solidarity with the federal workers who took pay cuts during the sequester.
According to White House sources, Barack Obama will surrender 5% of his compensation in an effort to do his part during the period of fiscal cutbacks, the Associated Press reported.
The president’s move comes as hundreds of thousands of public service workers will be sent home without pay for a number of days over the next six months in an effort to cut spending.
President Barack Obama will give 5 percent of his salary back to the government to show solidarity with the federal workers who took pay cuts during the sequester
The US President’s annual salary is $400,000, meaning that a 5% pay cut would amount to $20,000 for the year.
That said, it is unclear whether Barack Obama will extend this measure so that it lasts a year, and he will only likely continue it as the sequester is in effect.
As a result, the cut will be retroactive, starting at the beginning of this month as that is when the sequester went into effect.
The cut will amount to about $1,666 per month.
Barack Obama isn’t the only politician making an effort to show solidarity with his lesser-paid colleagues, as a bevy of other Democrats have done the same.
According to USA Today, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and his deputy director Ashton Carter have announced that they will not accept a portion of their salaries during the period of the sequester.
They did not specify how much of their salary they will be giving up.
Senators Claire McCaskill and Mark Begich- both Democrats- have publicly stated that they will be making similar gestures. Cynics could take issue with Mark Begich’s involvement, as he announced plans to work with Republican Senator Tom Coburn to figure out areas to cut the projected $85 billion in spending that is needed to help fix the country’s financial crisis.
Adding to his possible motives, it also comes the year before he is up for re-election in Alaska.
There have not been any reports of Republicans making similar gestures.
North Korea has announced today that its army had received final approval to launch “merciless” nuclear strikes against the US.
The General Staff of the Korean People’s Army said it was formally notifying Washington that US threats would be “smashed by… cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means”, according to a statement published by the official KCNA news agency.
“The merciless operation of [our] revolutionary armed forces in this regard has been finally examined and ratified.
“The moment of explosion is approaching fast,” the statement read, adding that it could occur “today or tomorrow”.
North Korea has announced today that its army had received final approval to launch “merciless” nuclear strikes against the US
The North Korean move came just hours after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said North Korea presented a “clear and present danger” to the US and its allies after days of escalating rhetoric.
Hawaii and Guam would also be outside the range of its medium-range missiles, but the US bases in South Korea and Japan may be vulnerable.
Chuck Hagel issued a statement after US stealth bombers were seen patrolling the border between North Korea and South Korea as part of military exercises which have inflamed tensions in the region.
Despite a successful long-range rocket launch in December, it is believed North Korea is years from developing an inter-continental ballistic missile that could strike the mainland United States, AFP reported.
Chinese troops have been placed on a heightened state of alert along the country’s frontier with North Korea after a series of warlike statements and actions from the pariah state.
North Korea today blocked South Korean workers from entering jointly run Kaesong Industrial Complex which is one of the few signs of positive relations between the neighboring countries.
The move to bar South Koreans from going to work at the Kaesong factory zone comes a day after North Korea announced that it would re-open a nuclear facility which has been closed since 2007.
Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has announced the US scrapped the final phase of its European missile defence shield, citing development problems and funding cuts.
Upgraded interceptors were to have been deployed in Poland to counter medium- and intermediate-range missiles, and potential threats from the Middle East.
Chuck Hagel said the threat had “matured” and that the US commitment to NATO missile defence remained “ironclad”.
The interceptors had been strongly opposed by the Russian government.
It complained that they would be able to stop Russia’s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and undermine its nuclear deterrent.
The US has always insisted that the missile shield was intended to protect against attacks by Iran and North Korea.
Analysts said Friday’s announcement could open the door to another round of talks between the US and Russia on nuclear arms reductions.
The dropping of the fourth and final phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) for missile defence was announced quietly at a news conference.
Almost as an aside, Chuck Hagel confirmed that in order to fund 14 new Ground-Based Interceptors (GBIs) in Alaska by 2017 to guard against increased threats from North Korea, the SM-3 IIB programme – a land-based standard missile – would be “restructured”.
“The purpose was to add to the protection of the US homeland already provided by our current GBIs against missile threats from the Middle East,” Chuck Hagel said.
“The timeline for deploying this programme had been delayed to at least 2022 due to cuts in Congressional funding. Meanwhile, the threat matures.
“By shifting resources from this lagging programme to fund the additional GBIs as well as advanced kill vehicle technology that will improve the performance of the GBI and other versions of the SM-3 interceptor, we will be able to add protection against missiles from Iran sooner while also providing additional protection against the North Korean threat.”
Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has announced the US scrapped the final phase of its European missile defence shield, citing development problems and funding cuts
Chuck Hagel promised that NATO allies in Europe would see no difference to their level of protection as a result, with the first three phases of the EPAA providing coverage of all of their territory as planned by 2018.“Let me emphasize the strong and continued commitment of the United States to NATO missile defence. That commitment remains ironclad.”
Chuck Hagel made no reference to Russia’s objections. Officials in Moscow had hinted that they would not consider further nuclear arms cuts if the SM-3 interceptors were deployed.
The Pentagon believes tough decisions have to be made about where the main threat lies.
“Cancelling phase 4 opens the door to another round of US-Russian nuclear arms reductions,” Tom Collina, research director at the Arms Control Association, told the Associated Press.
“We give up nothing since phase 4 was not panning out anyway. This is a win-win for the United States.”
The decision was, however, criticized by Republicans in the Congress.
“President Obama’s reverse course decision will cost the American taxpayer more money and upset our allies,” said Representative Mike Rogers, who chairs the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, which oversees ballistic missile defence.
Although North Korea is many years away from developing an effective inter-continental ballistic missile with nuclear capability, the mood in Washington is that the US needs to stay ahead of the threat posed by an increasingly belligerent regime in Pyongyang, he adds.
Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has announced plans to boost missile defences on the United States West Coast to counter the threat from North Korea.
Chuck Hagel said the US would add 14 interceptors, which can shoot down missiles in flight, to 30 already in place in California and Alaska by 2017.
He cited a “series of irresponsible and reckless provocations” recently by North Korea.
Tensions have risen after Pyongyang’s third nuclear test last month.
Only last week North Korea threatened the US with a pre-emptive nuclear strike.
However, despite North Korea’s latest fiery rhetoric, analysts say the regime is years away from producing a missile with the capability to reach the continental US.
“The US has missile defences to protect us from limited ICBM [Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile] attacks,” Chuck Hagel told Friday’s press conference.
“But North Korea in particular has recently made advances in its capabilities and has engaged in a series of irresponsible and reckless provocations.”
Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has announced plans to boost missile defences on the US West Coast to counter the threat from North Korea
Chuck Hagel said the US would also deploy a radar-tracking station in Japan.He continued: “The reason we’re doing what we’re doing, and the reason we’re advancing our programme here for homeland security is not taking any chances, is to stay ahead of the threat and to ensure any contingencies.”
Chuck Hagel said the additional 14 interceptors would be deployed to Fort Greely, in Alaska, at a cost of about $1 billion.
He also announced the Pentagon was beginning environmental impact studies for additional interceptor sites, allowing a shorter timeline for construction if the president decides to go ahead with installing further interceptors.
The Alaska and California sites were built during the presidency of George W. Bush as protection from a possible strike by North Korea.
Technical difficulties with the interceptors slowed their installation.
When asked about the “poor performance” of interceptors during recent trials, Chuck Hagel said further tests would be carried out this year.
“We have confidence in our system and we certainly will not go forward with the addition of the 14 interceptors until we’re sure we have the complete confidence we need.”
President Hamid Karzai has issued a stinging rebuke to the US and the Taliban, saying they are both guilty of sowing fears for post-2014 Afghanistan.
Hamid Karzai said Taliban suicide attacks on Saturday were aimed at intimidation that would prolong the presence of international troops in Afghanistan.
The troops are scheduled to end combat missions in 2014.
Hamid Karzai has cancelled a scheduled press conference with visiting US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel.
A senior Afghan presidential aide said this was because of tensions over civilian casualties, the handover of control of Bagram prison and the actions of US Special Forces in Wardak province.
US officials said it was because of security concerns and not the president’s recent comments.
In a nationally televised speech, President Hamid Karzai referred to two Taliban attacks on Saturday in Khost and Kabul that left 19 people dead.
He suggested both the US and Taliban were trying to convince Afghans the situation would worsen after 2014.
Hamid Karzai said: “Yesterday’s bombings in the name of the Taliban were aimed at serving the foreigners and supporting the presence of the foreigners in Afghanistan and keeping them in Afghanistan by intimidating us.”
President Hamid Karzai has issued a stinging rebuke to the US and the Taliban, saying they are both guilty of sowing fears for post-2014 Afghanistan
Responding to Hamid Karzai’s speech, US and NATO forces commander Gen. Joseph Dunford said: “We have fought too hard over the past 12 years, we have shed too much blood over the last 12 years, to ever think that violence or instability would be to our advantage.”
Relations between Hamid Karzai and the US are in bad shape, with the president angry that the US has not transferred Afghan prisoners held in US custody at Bagram prison.
The Afghan government also accused US-led forces and Afghans working with them of abusing and arresting university students, in violation of national sovereignty.
Hamid Karzai also said that: “Taliban leaders and representatives are talking with the US abroad every day.”
The president would rather the insurgents spoke to him, but they will not do so as they regard his government as illegitimate.
A statement from the US embassy in Kabul said Washington had “long supported an Afghan-led process for Afghans to talk to Afghans”.
But it pointed out that the Taliban had suspended talks with the US in March 2012 and it was “up to the Taliban to take the next steps”.
A Taliban spokesman denied the group was holding any dialogue with the US.
Hamid Karzai’s speech comes as Chuck Hagel makes his first visit to Afghanistan.
The two governments are still negotiating a deal on the long-term presence of US forces in Afghanistan.
Hamid Karzai said any force that remained “must respect the national sovereignty of our country and must respect all our customs”.
There are about 66,000 US military personal at present in the country. Early next year that figure will drop to 34,000. The number of international troops that will remain after 2014 is still to be determined.
Former Senator Chuck Hagel has been confirmed by the US Senate as the new Pentagon chief, after four Republicans joined Democrats to approve his nomination.
The former Republican Nebraska senator was confirmed by 58-41.
Chuck Hagel will replace outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who was confirmed by 100-0 in June 2011.
Two weeks ago, Republicans delayed a vote, questioning Chuck Hagel’s past positions on Israel and Iran, and his qualifications for the post.
But they dropped the filibuster stalling tactic, the first time it has ever been used to delay confirmation of a defense secretary, after a week-long recess.
President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party holds a 55-45 edge in the chamber, and Chuck Hagel ultimately only needed 51 votes to be confirmed.
Republican Senators Thad Cochran, Rand Paul, Richard Shelby and Mike Johanns voted in favor of Chuck Hagel’s appointment.
After the acrimonious nomination fight, President Barack Obama said he was pleased there had been at least some bipartisan support for Chuck Hagel.
“I am grateful to Chuck for reminding us that when it comes to our national defence, we are not Democrats or Republicans. We are Americans, and our greatest responsibility is the security of the American people,” said Barack Obama.
Earlier on Tuesday, Chuck Hagel, a decorated Vietnam veteran, passed a crucial procedural vote that needed the support of 60 senators.
Former Senator Chuck Hagel has been confirmed by the US Senate as the new Pentagon chief
Among the sticking points in Chuck Hagel’s nomination process was a remark he made in a 2008 book that the “Jewish lobby” intimidated decision-makers on Capitol Hill.
Republican senators also said they feared the 66-year-old Chuck Hagel would be too lax on Iran.
During his time as a senator, Chuck Hagel angered Republican party leaders when he pilloried former President George W Bush’s handling of the Iraq war.
Ted Cruz, an outspoken conservative first-term senator from Texas, recently suggested without evidence that Chuck Hagel had accepted payments from North Korea.
During his confirmation hearing in January, Chuck Hagel sought to reassure the Senate armed services committee that he was “fully committed” to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
He also apologized for the “Jewish lobby” comment, saying he could not be defined by any single quote.
Chuck Hagel’s Democratic Party supporters produced other remarks and evidence they said showed he would stick to existing US policy on Israel and Iran.
The White House had warned of great risks in leaving the Pentagon without a leader at a time of budget challenges and while the US has troops in Afghanistan.
Senate Democrats blasted their colleagues for the blocking tactics, but some Republicans protested that they needed more time to weigh the nomination.
Others, including several senior Republicans on the armed services committee, said outright that they would not back Chuck Hagel.
President Barack Obama is to pick maverick former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as defence secretary later, amid a political backlash over the nomination.
Chuck Hagel would replace Leon Panetta at the Pentagon, but Hagel’s fellow Republicans have voiced criticism over the Nebraskan’s views towards Israel.
White House officials also say Barack Obama will pick his counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan as director of the CIA.
Both appointments must be confirmed by the Senate.
The nominations are expected to be formally announced at the White House on Monday afternoon.
Along with Senator John Kerry, whom Barack Obama nominated last month to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, Chuck Hagel and John Brennan would help shape the president’s second-term national security agenda.
But analysts say the choice of Chuck Hagel, a 66-year-old decorated Vietnam veteran, could prompt a Senate confirmation battle. Opponents say he is hostile to Israel and soft on Iran.
Chuck Hagel has criticized discussion of a military strike by either the US or Israel against Iran and has advocated including Iran on future peace talks in Afghanistan.
Although no Republican lawmakers are threatening to block Chuck Hagel’s nomination, two influential senators have attacked him.
President Barack Obama is to pick maverick former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as defence secretary later, amid a political backlash over the nomination
Chuck Hagel made critical remarks against the Israel lobby in the US capital, quoted in a 2008 book by former state department official Aaron David Miller.
“The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here,” Chuck Hagel was quoted as saying.
“I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli senator.”
Top Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told CNN on Sunday: “This is an in-your-face nomination of the president to all of us who are supportive of Israel.”
US Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told NBC there would be “a lot of tough questions” for Chuck Hagel.
But White House officials say Chuck Hagel’s positions on these issues have been misrepresented, saying he voted to send billions in military assistance to Israel and has supported the imposition of multilateral sanctions on Tehran.
The Republican Jewish Coalition’s executive director, Matt Brooks, said the appointment of Chuck Hagel would be “a slap in the face for every American who is concerned about the safety of Israel”.
But the pro-Obama National Jewish Democratic Council adopted a softer tone, saying it trusted that Chuck Hagel would “follow the president’s lead of providing unrivalled support for Israel”.
Chuck Hagel has also been criticized by some Democrats for saying in 1998 that a nominee for an ambassador post was “openly, aggressively gay”. He has since apologized for those comments.
If John Brennan is confirmed to lead the CIA, he will replace General David Petraeus, who resigned last year after admitting to an affair with his biographer.
A CIA veteran, John Brennan is currently Barack Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser. The 57-year-old was heavily involved in the planning of the 2011 raid that killed Osama Bin Laden.
Although put forward for the role in 2008, John Brennan withdrew his name amid questions about his connection to interrogation techniques used during the administration of George W. Bush.
“Brennan has the full trust and confidence of the president,” a White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP news agency.
“Over the past four years, he has been involved in virtually all major national security issues and will be able to hit the ground running at CIA.”