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United States defence secretary accuses China of 'intimidation' over militarised Spratly Islands

07 June 2018

"China's militarization of artificial features in the South China Sea includes the deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, electronic jammers and, more recently, the landing of bomber aircraft at Woody island", said Mattis, confirming previous intelligence reports.

Last week, media reported that two U.S. warships had conducted freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) near the Paracel Islands, claimed by China, in the South China Sea.

Hours after Mattis spoke, Chinese Lieutenant General He Lei lashed out at "irresponsible comments" on China's build-up in the South China Sea.

China holds the view that a country should not pursue its own absolute security at the expense of that of others, said Zhou. Pyongyang has long said it may only agree to relinquish its nuclear weapons if the US withdraws its armed forces from the South.

Militarizing the islands, Mattis said, will not enhance China's standing in the world.

China claims almost the complete resource-rich sea, via which $5 trillion in delivery commerce passes yearly, with competing claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

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Mattis's address in Singapore returned to a theme that he and other senior United States officials have hammered home since Trump took office - that America is here to stay in the Asia-Pacific region and that allies should stick with Washington instead of aligning with Beijing.

Under President Donald Trump's new National Security Strategy unveiled previous year, US policymakers are now frequently pledging to defend a "free and open Indo-Pacific", a term that is more inclusive than the more widely used "Asia Pacific" as it encompasses the Indian Ocean and India, a key USA ally that is also being threatened by Beijing's aggression.

The and regional allies accuse China of militarising the region as part of its efforts to lay claim to the contested territory.

"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".

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. One modest exception came last week when the Pentagon disinvited China from biennial maritime exercises in the Pacific.

The incident was the first time Donald Trump's administration challenged Chinese claims to the disputed waters but Mr Mattis' speech represents a step up in the war of words.

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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". "They believe that piling mountainous debts on their neighbours and somehow removing the freedom of political action is the way to engage them".

"Eventually these things do not pay off, even if on the financial ledger sheet, or the power ledger sheet they appear to", he said.

Just hours after the U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the highly-anticipated meeting with the DPKR leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore is back on track, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis told a room that withdrawing or reducing military presence in the Korean Peninsula is not now an option.

China has indisputable sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and the adjacent waters, a fact verified by historical evidence and supported by global law, he said.

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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United States defence secretary accuses China of 'intimidation' over militarised Spratly Islands