Published: Sat, June 02, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

US Defense Secretary Mattis Slams China for Militarising South China Sea Islands

US Defense Secretary Mattis Slams China for Militarising South China Sea Islands

US Defense Secretary James Mattis accused China of "intimidation and coercion" in the Indo-Pacific and declared that the United States does not plan to abandon its role in the region during a speech Saturday in Singapore.

Mattis told Asia's biggest security conference Saturday that China's deployment of missile batteries and bombers to outposts in the disputed area was "a reality" the USA and its allies would have to deal with. "This is our priority theater", Mattis said.

Speaking at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Mattis said China's placement of weapons systems, including missile batteries and military aircraft, at outposts in the disputed sea raised questions about Beijing's intentions. "Eventually these things do not pay off, even if on the financial ledger sheet, or the power ledger sheet they appear to".

Old disputes between the USA and China have flared up amid the Trump administration's efforts to counter Chinese influence. Mattis is laying out a sharp criticism of Beijing at an worldwide security forum.

Mattis's comments came at a time of increased tensions between the USA and China, with the two countries locked in an ongoing trade dispute while Beijing has also continued to assert its territorial claims in the South China Sea. He said the American goal remained the "irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula".

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The South China Sea, a key trade route, is subject to overlapping claims by six countries. And he says the USA remains committed to ensuring free and open transit in the region. Members of the US Congress are also attending the Shangri-La Dialogue.

Still, Mattis was asked a question after his speech by a Chinese delegate.

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

The U.S. defense secretary replied that freedom of navigation operations were not militarizing the waters.

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