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The United States will "patrol" the South China sea

07 June, 2018, 08:34 | Author: Kristen Ingram
  • US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis speaks at the IISS Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore. (Reuters pic

At the same time, Ng called out China for intensifying its military buildup on reclaimed reefs in the South China Sea.

At an worldwide security forum in Singapore on Saturday, Defense Secretary James Mattis accused China of intimidating others in the region by installing weapons systems on its man-made islands.

Speaking at a high-profile security summit in Singapore 10 days before President Donald Trump is due to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the Pentagon chief also said the United States military continues to support diplomats pushing for the "complete, verifiable and irreversible" denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. "There are consequences that will continue to come home to roost with China, if they do not find the way to work more collaboratively with all of the nations who have interest".

"We do not see it as a militarisation by going through what has traditionally been an worldwide water space", said Mattis of the U.S. ship movements through the South China Sea.

The Singapore gathering also follows the Pentagon's decision last week to withdraw its invitation for China to participate in a multinational naval exercise in what it called "an initial response" to China's militarization of the South China Sea.

Mattis said Beijing had deployed a range of military hardware - including anti-ship missiles, surface-to-airmissiles and electronic jammers - across the South China Sea, where it has built islets and other maritime features into hardened military facilities.

"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 said.

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

Despite his criticism, Gen Mattis added that the United States would "continue to pursue a constructive, results-oriented relationship with China" with "co-operation whenever possible". Singapore has warned previously that countries should not be squeezed by competition between the USA and a rising China, or forced to take sides.

The South China Sea, a key trade route, is subject to overlapping claims by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.

Discussion about the number of U.S troops in South Korea is subject to bilateral discussions between Washington and Seoul that are separate from the North Korea negotiations, Mattis said.

Reuters first reported that two US Navy warships sailed near South China Sea islands claimed by China on Sunday, prompting anger in Beijing, which claims most of the strategic waters where Chinese, Japanese and some Southeast Asian navies operate.

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

"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. -China trade negotiations and on-again, off-again nuclear talks between the USA and North Korea, China continues to strengthen its position in the South China Sea.

The Pentagon is weighing a more assertive programme of the so-called freedom-of-navigation operations close to Chinese installations on disputed reefs, two U.S. officials and Western and Asian diplomats close to the discussions said.

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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