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

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

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

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

"China's policy in the South China Sea stands in stark contrast to the openness our strategy promises, it calls into question China's broader goals", Mattis said, according to Reuters.

China has also landed heavy bombers on Woody Island in the Paracel Islands.

Speaking at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, an Asian security summit in Singapore, Mr Mattis said China's actions were created to intimidate and coerce other nations in the region.

Last week, the United States disinvited China from the Rim of the Pacific exercise (RIMPAC), a major worldwide maritime exercise scheduled for later this year, citing Beijing's behavior in the South China Sea.

The U.S., he said, "will continue to pursue a constructive, results-oriented relationship with China, cooperation when possible, and competing vigorously where we must".

The Pentagon chief said the USA was "steadfastly committed to working with Taiwan to provide defence articles" consistent with the "obligations set out in our Taiwan Relations Act".

Last week, two U.S. Navy warships reportedly sailed near South China Sea islands over which China has territorial disputes with its neighboring countries.

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.

Satellite images of the Hughes and Gaven reefs also showed what appeared to be anti-aircraft guns and what were likely to be close-in weapons systems (CIWS) to protect against cruise missile strikes.

Mattis also struck at one of the key, longstanding disputes between the US and China, telling the conference that America will continue to provide defense equipment and services to Taiwan and oppose any effort to alter the status quo.

The United States has once again accused China of militarizing the South China Sea to intimidate and coerce neighbors.

It said: "This in turn gives the United States more excuses to exert military pressure, causing regional tensions to spiral".

Mr Mattis acknowledged that China's militarisation of islands was a reality but warned of further consequences. "There are consequences that will continue to come home to roost, so to speak, with China, if they don't find a way to work more collaboratively with all of the nations who have interests".

"That issue is not on the table here in Singapore on the 12th, nor should it be", Mattis said. China protested the move.

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.

Mattis has tried to avoid weighing in on the summit, deferring questions to the State Department and Trump's national security team.

He responded by saying: "The Chinese government and its people strongly oppose arms sale to Taiwan, all kinds of official government contacts to strengthen their ties with Taipei, as well as other acts to harm the "one-China principle".

On the Trump administration's relations with US allies and neighbors, including the recent move to place tariffs on Canada, Mexico, and the European Union, Mattis acknowledged there had been "some unusual approaches".

"Our objective remains the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula", Mattis said.

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