United States may step up South China Sea patrols

07 June, 2018, 08:33 | Author: Irene Delgado
  • From left Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Australia's Defense Minister Marise Payne

Mattis' comments drew a pointed reaction from a Chinese official at the meeting.

Beijing's deployments of missile batteries and bombers to outposts in disputed areas appear aimed at intimidating neighbours, Mattis told delegates on Saturday at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

Mr Mattis, speaking at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue summit in Singapore, said: "Despite China's claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapon systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion".

He added there would be "consequences" if China does "not find the way to work more collaboratively with all of the nations who have interest".

On the sidelines of the Singapore conference, Lieutenant General He Lei of the China's PLA Academy of Military Sciences said China had every right to continue to militarise its South China Sea holdings.

"Any irresponsible comments from other countries can not be accepted", Lieutenant General He Lei said at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

The comments came on the heels of a string of events that highlight the tension between the world's two biggest economies over the South China Sea's disputed waters.

China's air force has landed long-range military aircraft on an island in the disputed South China Sea, a move that is believed to be the first of its kind and is likely to fuel further concerns about Beijing's intentions in the region.

China defended today its right to deploy troops and military camps in the South Sea islands under its juridiction in response to critizism from the United States in that matter.

Last week, two U.S. Navy vessels also sailed near China-controlled islands in what Mattis called "an affirmation of the worldwide rules-based order".

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But he also said the US welcomes cooperation with China "wherever possible", and announced that he has accepted Beijing's invitation to visit soon.

France and the United Kingdom will challenge Beijing by sailing through contested waters in the South China Sea.

The South China Sea, a key trade route, is subject to overlapping claims by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei. But while other countries have built military features and artificial islands, none come close to matching Beijing's in scale or ambition, which stretch hundreds of miles south and east from its most southerly province of Hainan.

He did however, seek to calm nervous allies in the region.

Mattis also touched on Taiwan, a longstanding dispute between the USA and China. -China relations, as the Trump administration is warily asking for China's help with North Korea ahead of a June 12 summit, while also threatening a trade war.

Although France is not a claimant in the South China Sea dispute, by conducting such exercises "on a regular basis with allies and friends" it is contributing to a rule-based order, according to Parly.

"I don't see what options Australia's got beyond a vigorous diplomatic assertion and what options America has got beyond continuing freedom of navigation patrols perhaps on a more regular rotation than what's happening now".

Mattis emphasized that the US military wants more transparency from China.

"We've been sending a clear message to all that the freedom of navigation is absolutely critical", he said.

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