Mattis accuses China of 'intimidation' in South China Sea

Mattis accuses China of 'intimidation' in South China Sea

Mattis accuses China of 'intimidation' in South China Sea

While the operation had been planned months in advance, and similar operations have become routine, it is believed to be the first time where two United States warships have been used for a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea.

At an global 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.

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".

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

The Shangri-La Dialogue 2018, or 17th Asia Security Summit, was launched in 2002 by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a British think tank, and the Singaporean government.

The comments came on the heels of a string of events that highlight the tension between the world's two biggest economies over the South China Sea's disputed waters.

Mattis said the Trump administration's recent decision to disinvite China from a multinational naval exercise this (northern) summer was an "initial response" to Beijing's island activity.

China has deployed anti-ship missiles, surface to air missiles and other military equipment on the disputed Spratly Islands and Woody Island.

Questioned during the Shangri-La Dialogue security conference over whether it was too late to stop China, Mattis said: "Eventually these (actions) do not pay off".

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"We have to make it clear that nations need to play by the rules, and there are consequences for not doing so", Williamson said, adding that the United Kingdom will send three ships to the South China Sea this year to enforce rules-based order.

But he says the US welcomes cooperation with China wherever possible, and says he accepted Beijing's invitation to visit there soon.

It has begun building military structures on disputed islands - much to the dismay of other South-East Asian nations including the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

He said Asia can only prosper under the rule of law, and stressed the importance of a rule-based worldwide order. Delegates hoping for clarity on Trump's intentions for a scheduled June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim did not get much from Mattis, though he said the issue of the permanent deployment of about 28,5000 USA troops in South Korea will not be "on the table".

The U.S., he said, remains committed to ensuring free and open transit in the region.

Regional military attaches say they are now bracing for China's next moves, which some fear could be the first deployment of jet fighters to the Spratlys or an attempt to enforce an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) similar to one Beijing created off its eastern coast in 2013. China protested the move.

The US wanted complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, he added.

The Pentagon chief gave only a brief mention of the negotiations for the planned June 12 summit in Singapore between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Royal Navy frigates HMS Sutherland and HMS Argyll and amphibious assault HMS Albion are being deployed to "send a clear message" to China and North Korea, Williamson said.

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