Mattis accuses China of 'intimidation' in South China Sea

Sergio Conner
June 7, 2018

Mattis vowed that the United States will push back against Beijing's aggression, amid growing concerns that the established USA presence and security assurances across the western Pacific region are being eroded by the Chinese regime's encroachments.

But don't expect US warnings to slow China's militarization of the strategic waterway, through which $3.4 trillion in global trade passes annually.

Speaking at a separate briefing, defence ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said they had noted that the United States had recently been "turning a blind eye to the facts and hyping up" the militarisation of the South China Sea. Mattis responded by saying there is a "fundamental disconnect" between China's views on the waters and how global tribunals view them.

It comes as Group of Seven finance chiefs issued a rare rebuke of a member nation, claiming US trade actions could undermine global economic confidence and threaten the effectiveness of the Western alliance.

"Yet China's policy in the South China Sea stands in stark contrast to the openness our strategy promotes". "What we see it as, is a reaffirmation of the rules-based order". But Representative Mac Thornberry, chairman of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, told reporters he believed that attitudes to China in the region are hardening.

The previous week the USA had withdrawn an invitation for Beijing to participate in the exercise known as Rim of the Pacific.

China is well within its rights to station troops on islands it claims in the South China Sea, the head of the country's military delegation at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore said on Saturday in response to criticism by US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis. "It calls into question China's broader goals", he said.

As expected, the Pentagon chief gave only a brief mention of the ongoing negotiations for an historic summit later this month between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

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The US cancelled China's participation in the multinational Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval drills after China confirmed reports the People's Liberation Army had installed missile systems in the disputed Spratly chain.

Mr Mattis only made a glancing reference to North Korea, reiterating that it was a diplomatically led effort and the objective remained the "complete verifiable, and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula".

China holds the view that a country should not pursue its own absolute security at the expense of that of others, said Zhou. It was the latest freedom of navigation operation created to challenge Beijing's claims. China protested the maneuver.

"To ensure long-term stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific, China has put forward a number of proposals that have been highly valued by the worldwide community". Neighboring nations fear China will use the facilities to reach further militarily and potentially restrict navigation.

China's presence at the Shangri-La Dialogue meeting this weekend is being led by Lt. Gen.

In a more conciliatory tone, Mattis said the U.S. would continue to pursue "cooperation whenever possible".

The Defense Secretary stuck to fairly common talking points from Washington: highlighting the importance of United States alliances and the ultimate goal of complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

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