Published: Thu, June 07, 2018
World | By Camille Rivera

Mattis warns China over 'militarization' of South China Sea

Mattis warns China over 'militarization' of South China Sea

Singapore-based security expert Tim Huxley said while increased pressure might slow China's militarization efforts, they would be hard to stop.

Defense Secretary James Mattis is warning China there will be consequences if it continues its military buildup in the South China Sea. That's angered Beijing, which claims Taiwan under a policy known as "One China" and opposes other countries pursuing ties with Taipei. Mattis responded by saying there is a "fundamental disconnect" between China's views on the waters and how global tribunals view them.

The current situation in the South China Sea has calmed down visibly as a result of the joint efforts of China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, he said. His comments come ahead of a planned June 12 summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

South Korea and Japan have expressed concern that Mr Trump may put United States security interests ahead of theirs in pursuing a deal with North Korea.

He added that the status of US troops in South Korea was not on the table when Trump and Kim meet, but left the door open to the issue being discussed down the road between Seoul and Washington if certain conditions were met.

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"Any discussion about the number of the US troops in the ROK is subject to the invitation to have them there and the discussion between the USA and ROK, separate from the issue with DPRK", Mattis said.

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.

Speaking just 10 days before President Donald Trump is due to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Mattis also said the U.S. military continues to support diplomats pushing for the "complete, verifiable and irreversible" denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis delivers his speech during the first plenary session of the 17th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-la Dialogue, an annual defense and security forum in Asia, in Singapore, Saturday, June 2, 2018, in Singapore.

Speaking at the same conference, China's Lt Gen He Lei said: "Any irresponsible comments from other countries can not be accepted". It was the latest freedom of navigation operation created to challenge Beijing's claims. "Our Indo-Pacific strategy informs our relationship with China".

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Pentagon officials have long complained that China has not been candid enough about its rapid military build-up and using South China Sea islands to gather intelligence.

In response to Mattis's speech, Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Lt. Gen.

At the same news conference, ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang also confirmed China's development of its latest-model type 055 guided missile destroyer, which weighs 10,000 tons and features both stealth design and a land-attack capability.

"If the USA will continue to pursue a constructive results-oriented relationship with China, cooperation, whenever possible, will be the name of the game, and competing vigorously where we must".

Beijing sent a relatively low-level delegation to this year's Shangri-La forum, which was dominated by the U.S. and its allies.

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"We have to make it clear that nations need to play by the rules and that there are consequences for not doing so", he added.

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