Posts Tagged ‘militarization’

US top diplomat talks South China Sea with China

June 15, 2018


U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, second from left, talks to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, fourth from right, during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Thursday, June 14, 2018.

AP Photo/Andy Wong, Pool
Patricia Lourdes Viray ( – June 15, 2018 – 10:17am

MANILA, Philippines — In his first visit to Beijing, US State Secretary Mike Pompeo reiterated Washington’s concern over the militarization of features in the South China Sea.

Washington’s top diplomat visited China after US President Donald Trump’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

In a press briefing, Pompeo said Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi confirmed China’s willingness to resolve the South China Sea dispute in a peaceful manner.

“As Councilor Yang mentioned, I reaffirmed our concern with respect to China’s efforts to build a militarized outpost in the South China Sea, endangering the free flow of trade and threatening the sovereignty of other nations and undermining regional stability,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo added that he was confident that the US and China could work together to resolve the dispute “without resort to threats, coercion or intimidation.”

The US has been insistent on its position against China’s expanding militarization in the South China Sea.

The US Department of Defense withdrew its invitation for China in the 2018 Rim of the Pacific Exercise as an “initial response” to the latter’s deployment of anti-cruise ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles and electronic jamming equipment in the Spratly Islands.

China’s landing of a nuclear-capable bomber on Woody Island in the Paracels also caused alarm for the US.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, insisted that the weapons on the artificial islands are not directed to any country.

Beijing accused Washington of “hyping” the South China Sea issue.

“We urge certain people in the US to give up all the meaningless hyping up surrounding the situation and do more in a responsible way to enhance trust and cooperation between regional countries and promote regional peace and stability,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said earlier this month.




Philippines/China: Senate Minority Leader says time to review ‘policy of appeasement’ toward China

June 14, 2018

The government should review its policy of “appeasement and accommodation” toward China, according to Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, saying that such a stance did not necessarily translate into economic benefits for the country.

Drilon issued the statement amid reports of increasing China’s militarization of the South China Sea conflict and of its coast guard’s taking of Filipino fishermen’s catch on Scarborough Shoal.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, is greeted by Chinese President Xi Jinping prior to their bilateral meeting held on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Monday, May 15, 2017.

Etienne Oliveau/Pool Photo via AP

According to Drilon, President Rodrigo Duterte should reevaluate his policy of appeasement toward China as records showed that it was not resulting in increase in trade and investments and in tourist arrivals in the country.

“I think the government should review the policy of appeasement and accommodation on China,” Drilon said during the Kapihan sa Senado forum.

Drilon cited the case of Vietnam which had been vocal in asserting its rights and condemning China for its aggressiveness in staking its claim to the disputed waters, a region believed to be holding vast reserves of natural resources.

Drilon said that foreign direct investments from China for the year 2017 stood at $31 million, “very minimal” compared to the $600 million from Japan and $160 from the United States.

“Vietnam, in 2017, got from Chinese direct investment was US$2.170 billion contrasted to our US$31 million. That indicates the non-connection between the policy of appeasement as contrasted to Vietnam’s policy of confrontation,” he said.

Bilateral trade between the Philippines and China stood at $21.94 billion in 2016 while that between Vietnam and China was at $71.85 billion, he said.

Tourist arrivals in Vietnam from China reached four million in 2017 while in the Philippines it was only 968,447.

Duterte has been trying to forge closer ties to China in an effort to court Chinese money and investments in the country.

He has also chosen to take a non-confrontational approach to China’s increasing militarization of the South China Sea dispute and to back-burn a 2016 United Nations-backed tribunal ruling invalidating much of Beijing’s expansive claims to the disputed seas.

Drilon also urged the Senate to conduct an audit of the country’s foreign policy, saying that the chamber is the partner of the executive department in conducting the country’s foreign relations.

“It is only correct that the Senate be informed of how foreign relations are being conducted; otherwise we will be in the dark, and therefore, I support that proposed review of our relationship with China,” Drilon, a former justice secretary and Senate president, said.

“We are making the call addressed to the chair of the committee to assert the Senate’s role as a partner in the conduct of foreign affairs. The Senate lead should take a serious look at this and assert the role of the Senate in this area.”

Drilon said that the Philippines should be more assertive of its rights in the South China Sea and of the 2016 ruling.

Aside from China and the Philippines, a host of regional countries also have competing claims to the seas, through which $3 trillion worth of trade annually passes.




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China warns U.S. over provocations after B-52 flyby in South China Sea

June 8, 2018

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China lashed out at the United States on Wednesday after a pair of B-52 bombers flew past a Chinese-held shoal in the South China Sea, amid escalating words and displays of military strength from the two major Pacific powers.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying warned the United States against “hyping up militarization and stirring up trouble,” while promising that China would take all necessary measures to defend its sovereignty.

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Hua Chunying

The United States “doing whatever they want is risky and China will not be threatened by any military warships,” Hua told reporters at a daily briefing in Beijing.

This week’s flyby near Scarborough Shoal, which China took from the Philippines in 2012, came after U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis accused Beijing of “intimidation and coercion” in the South China Sea. China claims almost the entirety of the sea–resource-rich waters that include some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes–despite overlapping claims from neighbors including the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

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A fighter jet from Taiwan escorts a Chinese bomber

Speaking at a summit of top security officials in Singapore last weekend, Mattis said China has deployed anti-ship missiles and surface-to-air missiles and landed nuclear capable bombers on the disputed islands. He vowed that the Indo-Pacific would remain a “priority theater” for U.S. forces.

Last month, China announced it had dispatched warships to drive away two U.S. Navy vessels sailing close to Chinese holdings in the Paracel Island chain, where China recently announced it had landed strategic bombers on an airstrip for the first time.

That naval confrontation came shortly after the Pentagon withdrew its invitation for China to participate in multinational naval exercises near Hawaii to protest China’s military moves in the South China Sea.

Despite rising tensions, Mattis is expected to visit Beijing at an unannounced date. He said last weekend he would travel soon at China’s invitation.

China’s Defense Ministry has said it would welcome Mattis and hoped for continued exchanges with the U.S. military.

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China says not scared after reported U.S. B-52 bombers trip over South China Sea

June 6, 2018

No military ship or aircraft can scare China away from its resolve to protect its territory, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday after two U.S. Air Force B-52 bombers were reported to have flown near disputed islands in the South China Sea.

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber flies during the annual recurring multinational, maritime-focused NATO exercise BALTOPS 2017 near Ventspils, Latvia June 6, 2017. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

CNN reported that the two aircraft flew within the vicinity of the Spratly Islands, where China has reclaimed land and built runways and other facilities on disputed reefs and small islands.

The United States was willing to work with China on a “results-oriented” relationship, but its actions in the South China Sea were coercive and the Pentagon would “compete vigorously” if needed, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Saturday.

The United States and China have frequently sparred about who is really militarizing the South China Sea, where China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines all have competing claims.

Speaking at a daily news briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she hoped the United States could clarify whether it thought sending “this type of offensive weapon” to the South China Sea counted as militarization.

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Hua Chunying

The United States should stop hyping up the issue of militarization and provoking trouble, she said.

“Running amuck is risky,” Hua said.

“China won’t be scared by any so-called military ship or aircraft, and we will only even more staunchly all necessary steps to defend the country’s sovereignty and security, to protect the peace and stability of the South China Sea region.”

Last month, China’s air force landed bombers on disputed islands and reefs in the South China Sea as part of a training exercise, triggering concern in Vietnam and the Philippines.

Satellite photographs taken on May 12 showed China appeared to have deployed truck-mounted surface-to-air missiles or anti-ship cruise missiles at Woody Island in the disputed sea.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel



China is not the bully in the South China Sea, the US is

June 6, 2018

China says America militarises the South China Sea by sending in carrier strike groups into a maritime area where it has no territory, makes no claims, the safety of its citizens and property has not been violated, and without invitation. Yet it labels self-defence against such unprovoked military intrusions as militarisation.

South China Morning Post

Tuesday, 05 June, 2018, 7:31pm

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis wonders why it is only China that has expressed unhappiness with US freedom of navigation exercises. It is because China is the only country strong enough not to be coerced and intimidated into silence by America’s “might makes right” policy. It is also because other South China Sea countries may not want to help the US escalate tensions in the region.

Watch: China dismisses Mattis’ remarks

If its freedom of navigation operations are truly routine and do not unfairly single out China, as the US maintains, then these must first be directed against the vast rings of concrete and steel that Japan has built around the Okinotori atoll in the Pacific.

Under the terms of Japan’s unconditional surrender in 1945, it only has sovereignty over its four main islands. Okinotori is not among them. That the US does not conduct sail-by operations there certainly calls into question its broader goals against China and stability in the region. Not to mention that the US is not a signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) under which it claims to operate the sail-by operations.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis speaks to reporters on board a US military plane en route to Hawaii on May 29. Mattis said the US will continue to confront China over its territorial claims in the South China Sea. Photo: AFP

If France and Britain also intend to engage in such operations (“France and Britain to sail into contested waters in South China Sea”, June 4), they should also sail within 12 nautical miles (territorial waters as defined by UNCLOS) of Okinotori atoll. Otherwise, their action would only vindicate Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s previous lambasting of the West’s hypocrisy and bullying, and make China more determined to defend its sovereignty.


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US B-52s fly by contested islands amid rising tensions with China

June 6, 2018

Two US B-52 bombers flew within the vicinity of the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea on Tuesday, according to a statement from US Pacific Air Forces, which oversees air operations in the region.

The flyover came days after Secretary of Defense James Mattis called Beijing out over its militarization of the islands, accusing China of “intimidation and coercion” in the Indo-Pacific, making clear the US has no plans to leave the region and prompting a furious Chinese response.
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Beijing claims the Spratly Islands, but those claims aren’t recognized by the US or by China’s neighbors — Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan — which also say the islands are theirs. China has used geographic features in the Spratlys to build man-made islands, some of which it has equipped with military facilities, including anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles.
A US defense official who has knowledge of the mission’s original flight plan said it called for the nuclear capable B-52 bombers to fly about 20 miles from the islands.
A spokesman for the Pentagon said the mission involved the Guam-based bombers conducting “a routine training mission,” flying from Andersen Air Force Base in the US territory of Guam “to the Navy Support Facility” in the United Kingdom’s Indian Ocean territory of Diego Garcia.
On Tuesday, the bombers flew from Diego Garcia and conducted “training” in the vicinity of the South China Sea, returning back to Diego Garcia the same day, according to the statement from US Pacific Air Forces.
CNN initially reported that the flyover took place Monday, based on information from the US defense official who later clarified that the flyover took place Tuesday and not during the initial leg of the aircraft’s journey Monday from Andersen to Diego Garcia.
James Mattis Photographer: Paul Miller/Bloomberg
Both flight operations were part of US Pacific Command’s “Continuous Bomber Presence” missions, which the military says are intended to maintain the readiness of US forces.
“US Pacific Command’s CBP missions, which have been routinely employed since March 2004, are flown in accordance with international law,” said Lt. Col. Chris Logan, a Pentagon spokesman.
Tuesday’s flyover came after Mattis used a Saturday speech in Singapore to accuse China of “intimidation and coercion” in the region and declared that the United States does not plan to abandon its role there.
“Make no mistake: America is in the Indo-Pacific to stay,” Mattis said. “This is our priority theater.”

Why it's so tense in the South China Sea

Why it’s so tense in the South China Sea 01:17
Mattis specifically called out Beijing’s militarization of artificial islands in the South China Sea, home to some of the world’s busiest sea lanes. “We are aware China will face an array of challenges and opportunities in coming years, we are prepared to support China’s choices if they promote long-term peace and prosperity for all in this dynamic region,” Mattis said.
The Pentagon last week ratcheted up rhetoric about China’s militarization of islands in the South China Sea, even as the Trump administration presses China for cooperation on North Korea.
When asked by a reporter about the ability of the US to “blow apart” one of China’s controversial man-made islands, Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, director of the Joint Staff, told reporters, “I would just tell you that the United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific taking down small islands.”
His comments — a reference to US amphibious landings and capture of Japanese held islands during World War II — come amid growing tension in the hotly contested region, as the US ramps up freedom of navigation operations in response to China’s steady militarization of its artificial islands.
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The Chinese government has reacted furiously to the recent US statements. At her regular press conference on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the US accusing China of militarizing the region was “like a thief crying, ‘Stop thief!’ “
“Why does the US choose to sail every now and then close to Chinese South China Sea islands and reefs? What is the US trying to do?” she said.
CORRECTION: CNN initially reported the flight over the South China Sea took place Monday, but an official later told CNN the mission was actually completed on Tuesday.


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U.S. weighs more South China Sea patrols to confront ‘new reality’ of China

June 3, 2018

The United States is considering intensified naval patrols in the South China Sea in a bid to challenge China’s growing militarization of the waterway, actions that could further raise the stakes in one of the world’s most volatile areas.

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

The officials declined to say how close they were to finalizing a decision.

Such moves could involve longer patrols, ones involving larger numbers of ships or operations involving closer surveillance of Chinese facilities in the area, which now include electronic jamming equipment and advanced military radars.

trict navigation.

A map of the South China Sea showing Chinese claims and disputed islands

U.S. officials are also pushing international allies and partners to increase their own naval deployments through the vital trade route as China strengthens its military capabilities on both the Paracel and Spratly islands, the diplomats said, even if they stopped short of directly challenging Chinese holdings.

“What we have seen in the last few weeks is just the start, significantly more is being planned,” said one Western diplomat, referring to a freedom of navigation patrol late last month that used two U.S. ships for the first time.

“There is a real sense more needs to be done.”

The Pentagon does not comment on future operations but a spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan, said “we will continue to work with our friends, partners, and allies to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific”.

A more assertive Pentagon approach already appears to have started. Reuters first reported the patrol last month in which two U.S. Navy warships sailed near South China Sea islands claimed by China, even as President Donald Trump sought Chinese cooperation on North Korea.

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 U.S. warships have been used for a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea.

The Pentagon also withdrew an invitation for Chinese forces to join large multi-country exercises off Hawaii later in the year.

Critics have said the patrols have little impact on Chinese behavior and mask the lack of a broader strategy to deal with China’s growing dominance of the area.


U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis warned in Singapore on Saturday that China’s militarization of the South China Sea was now a “reality” but that Beijing would face unspecified consequences.

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.”

Last month, China’s air force landed bombers on Woody Island in the disputed Paracel archipelago as part of a training exercise, triggering concern from Vietnam and the Philippines.

Satellite photographs taken on May 12 showed China appeared to have deployed truck-mounted surface-to-air missiles or anti-ship cruise missiles at Woody, while anti-ship cruise missiles and anti-air missiles were also placed on its largest bases in the Spratlys.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Singapore conference, He Lei, of the PLA’s Academy of Military Sciences, said China had every right to continue to militarize its South China Sea holdings.

“It is China’s sovereign and legal right for China to place our army and military weapons there. We see any other country that tries to make noise about this as interfering in our internal affairs,” He said.

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.

Vietnamese military officers say they are particularly concerned by the prospect of an ADIZ, saying it could threaten the integrity of Vietnamese airspace.

Lieutenant General Nguyen Duc Hai, head of the Vietnamese military’s Institute of Strategic Studies, said that while Vietnam had long sought peaceful settlements to disputes, “all options are on the table from our side to safeguard our sovereignty and territory.”

“The ADIZ establishment is one option we have thought of and also have plans to deal with.”

Satellite image of Woody Island

Beijing has been turning islands into military bases. Reuters photo

Vietnam is the most active challengers to China’s sweeping claims to much of the South China Sea, with Hanoi claiming the Paracels and the Spratlys in their entirety.

Malaysia and the Philippines hold some Spratlys features while Brunei claims waters straddled by China’s so-called nine-dash line claim. Taiwan claims the same area as China.

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

“China has created a new reality down there, and it is not going to be rolled back,” Huxley told Reuters.

“They are not doing this to poke America or their neighbors in the eye but they are almost certainly doing this to serve their long-term strategic objectives, whether that is projecting their military power or securing energy supplies.”

Reporting by Greg Torode and Idrees Ali; Additional reporting by Lee Chyen Yee; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan


US defense chief Jim Mattis rebukes Chinese ‘intimidation’ in South China Sea

June 2, 2018

Pentagon chief Jim Mattis has issued a sharp criticism of Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea. He accused China of “intimidation and coercion” by placing weapons on manmade islands in the disputed waterway.

An aerial shot of a reef in the disputed Spratly islands, taken April 21 2017 (Getty Images/AFP/T. Aljibe)

Beijing’s military buildup in the South China Sea calls into question its broader goals in the region, the US secretary of defense told a high-profile international security forum on Saturday.

Jim Mattis said Beijing had recently deployed hardware including anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles and electronic jammers as well as landed bomber aircraft in contested areas.

“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,” Mattis told the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

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Mattis at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore

He said the US remained committed to ensuring free and open transit in the region, a hub for shipping and natural resources beset by overlapping claims from China and several of its neighbors including Vietnam and the Philippines.

China believes islands, islets and other maritime features in the South China Sea are its sovereign territory and that it is within its rights to build defenses on them. Neighboring nations fear China will use the facilities to reach further militarily and potentially restrict navigation.

A map of the South China Sea showing Chinese claims and disputed islands

Weeks of heightened tensions

Mattis’ remarks follow a rocky past few weeks in US-China relations as the administration of US President Donald Trump seeks to balance cooperation with China on issues like North Korea with dealing with Beijing’s activities in the disputed sea.

Last month the US withdrew an invitation for the Chinese navy to take part in a training excercise called Rim of the Pacific because the Pentagon said it had strong evidence that China had deployed weapons systems on disputed islands.

On Sunday, two US warships sailed close to the Paracel Islands in a long-planned operation designed to challenge China’s claims. China protested the move.

Quick pivot to cooperation

Mattis also said the United States welcomed cooperation with China and said he had accepted Beijing’s invitation to visit there soon.

He said the US “will continue to pursue a constructive, results-oriented relationship with China, cooperation when possible, and competing vigorously where we must.”

China has not sent high-level officials to the Shangri-La conference. An editorial in the state-run Global Times newspaper said the tension in the South China Sea was “due to the US continuing to increase its military presence in the region, forcing China to naturally upgrade its defensive weapons on the islands.”

“This, in turn, gives the US more excuses to exert military pressure, causing regional tensions to spiral,” the Global Times said.

Modi urges unity

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the keynote speaker, urged countries across the region to unite against protectionism and territorial tensions, for the prosperity of all.

Referring to maritime issues, including those in the South China Sea, Modi said his country did not see the region as a club of limited members.

“India stands for a free, open, inclusive Indo-Pacific region, which embraces us all in a common pursuit of progress and prosperity,” he said, using the term Indo-Pacific, which has become increasingly used by diplomats in the US, Australia, India and Japan to refer to the region instead of Asia-Pacific, which was seen as placing China too firmly at the center.

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se/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)


Mattis Accuses Beijing of ‘Intimidation and Coercion’ in South China Sea

June 2, 2018

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis harshly criticized the Chinese government on Saturday for its continuing militarization of a string of islands in the South China Sea, calling the new presence of advanced military equipment and missiles there a flagrant show of military power.

“Despite China’s claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use,” Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said in Singapore on Saturday, referring to new installations on the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Credit Yong Teck Lim/Associated Press

“Despite China’s claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion,” Mr. Mattis said during a speech on Saturday at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, a regional security conference.

Mr. Mattis recently disinvited the Chinese military from a large, multinational naval exercise this summer due in part to China’s positioning of those weapons, including antiship and surface-to-air missiles, on the Spratly Islands.

China’s activities, Mr. Mattis said, are “in stark contrast to the openness our strategy promotes,” calling into question “China’s broader goals.”

Mr. Mattis’s remarks come as the United States tries to navigate increased tensions with Beijing, even as the Trump administration seeks Chinese help in curbing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

The Chinese military participated in the multinational exercise, called the Rim of the Pacific, in 2014 and 2016. Mr. Mattis called the move to withdraw their invitation an “initial response,” without specifying what additional moves the United States might be considering. He added that he was open to cooperation with China “wherever possible.”

“The U.S. will continue to pursue a constructive, results-oriented relationship with China,” Mr. Mattis said, “competing vigorously where we must.”

On Sunday, two American warships sailed within 12 miles of islands in the South China Sea, in an attempt to assert the United States’ stance on freedom of navigation in international waters. China has laid claim to most of the South China Sea, in defiance of international norms.

Mr. Mattis tried to reassure allies in the region that the United States was committed to handling both China’s rapid expansion and the threat from North Korea.

“We are focused on modernizing our alliance with both the Republic of Korea and Japan, transforming these critical alliances to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” Mr. Mattis said, using South Korea’s formal name.

He also said the United States would continue to support Taiwan, the self-governing island that China claims as its territory, with military and other assistance.

Aaron L. Friedberg, a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University and a former deputy assistant for national security affairs, said that Mr. Mattis’s speech was probably meant to ease American allies’ concerns not just about regional threats, but about President Trump’s oft-changing foreign policy.

“They don’t know what’s coming next,” Mr. Friedberg said. “There’s not much people even at Mattis’s levels can do about it.”

Mr. Mattis said little about North Korea in his speech, which came just hours after Mr. Trump said that the June 12 talks in Singapore with the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, were back on. He said the American goal remained the “irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” In response to a question, he added that American troop levels in South Korea would not be on the agenda for the summit talks.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A5 of the New York Times
See also: CNN

Mattis takes hard line on China in Singapore speech



South China Sea dispute: Mattis says China ‘intimidating neighbours’

Satellite image of Woody Island

Beijing has been turning islands into military bases. Reuters photo

Mattis attacks Beijing for ‘coercion’ in South China Sea

June 2, 2018

US defence secretary also hits out at Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative

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U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis © Getty

Ben Bland in Singapore

Jim Mattis, the US Secretary of Defence, has attacked Beijing for its militarisation of the contested South China Sea and “intimidation and coercion” of Asian nations, warning that its actions call into question President Xi Jinping’s “broader goals”.

Mr Mattis said on Saturday that Beijing’s deployment of anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles, as well as electronic jammers, on man-made islands in the South China Sea undermined President Xi’s commitment during a White House meeting in 2015 not to militarise the Spratly islands.

“Despite China’s claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purpose of intimidation and coercion,” he said in Singapore at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual Asia-Pacific security forum organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a think-tank.

China has long argued that its growing military investments and its uncompromising stance in the South China Sea are defensive in nature, while the US and some south-east Asian nations have warned that Beijing is seeking to intimidate and undermine international law.

In response to China’s deployment of military assets in the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, Washington last week revoked an invitation to Beijing to attend a large naval exercise.

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Chinese bomber

Mr Mattis admitted that this was a “relatively small consequence” for China but warned of “much larger” consequences should Beijing continue to upset the established order.

He also criticised President Xi’s signature Belt and Road Infrastructure Initiative, warning that Beijing would alienate Asian nations if its projects leave partner countries with “mountainous debts” that will reduce their “freedom of political action”.

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

Beijing has dismissed the US attacks on its South China Sea policy as “ridiculous”, accusing the US of militarising the disputed waters through its regular freedom of navigation operations, sailing close to man-made islands controlled by China.

But Mr Mattis rejected China’s position, insisting that the US was acting to uphold international law and freedom of navigation “for all nations, large and small”.

He said he would be travelling to Beijing later this month for talks with his Chinese counterparts about the growing differences between the world’s two biggest economies.


old the House panel.