South China Sea dispute: Mattis says China 'intimidating neighbours'
South China Sea dispute: Mattis says China 'intimidating neighbours'
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis wants to push the message that Washington is steadfast in its backing of the Asia Pacific regionMore
03 June, 2018, 03:27
China's military build-up in the South China Sea and its deployment of high-end weapons systems in the disputed waterway is created to intimidate and coerce neighbors, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Saturday.
Mattis told Asia's biggest security conference Saturday that China's deployment of missile batteries and bombers to outposts in the disputed area was "a reality" the USA and its allies would have to deal with.
Beijing has begun projecting power beyond its borders, most notably through the construction and militarization of man-made islands in disputed areas of the South China Sea.
In Singapore, Mattis named deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles and the recent landing of bomber aircraft at Woody Islands as examples of China's militarisation of "artificial features" in the South China Sea.
Speaking at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, an Asian security summit in Singapore, Mr Mattis said China's actions were created to intimidate and coerce other nations in the region.
The U.S., he said, remains committed to ensuring free and open transit in the region. "We see it as affirmation of the rules-based worldwide order".
The Pentagon said the decision to disinvite the Chinese Navy was triggered by what it called strong evidence that China has deployed weapons systems on the islands, and called on China to remove them.
Beijing has dismissed the USA official's claims of militarization.
Andrew Yang, a former Taiwanese defence minister who is also at the security conference in Singapore, said he expected the United States to tread carefully on the Taiwan issue so as not to provoke the mainland into taking military action against the self-ruled island.
Trump Revives Hope for June 12 Summit With Kim in Singapore Kim is also widely believed to be behind the 2010 sinking of the Cheonan, a South Korean Naval vessel, in which 46 seamen died. A vice chairman of the ruling Workers' Party, Kim Yong Chol has been deeply involved in North Korean diplomacy this year.
Lieutenant General He Lei (L), vice president of the People's Liberation Army's Academy of Military Science, and Hajit Sajjan (R), Canadian National Defense Minister, attend the first plenary session of the 17th Asian Security Summit of the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on June 2, 2018.
The Pentagon chief said Washington will compete vigorously with China's actions if needed.
The Pentagon leader's comments at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue came in the wake of a tumultuous few weeks between the USA and China.
"China's policy in the South China Sea stands in stark contrast to the openness our strategy promises, it calls into question China's broader goals", Mattis said, according to Reuters.
The U.S. response to China's weaponization of the islands continued on Sunday, as two U.S. warships sailed close to the Paracel Islands, which lie north of the Spratlys. China protested the move.
Trump said on Friday an unprecedented nuclear arms summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that the United States pulled out of will now go ahead as scheduled on June 12 in Singapore, adding another twist to a high-stakes diplomatic dance.
Though much of the world is focused on an upcoming summit between North Korea and the United States, this year's Shangri-La Dialogue has focused primarily on the region's long-term future and how to deal with a more assertive China.
The US wanted complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, he added.
But the message might be a tougher sell for Mattis, who is generally popular on the global scene, after his boss this week imposed metals tariffs on some of America's closest allies in the name of "national security".
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