China slams 'irresponsible' US comments on South China Sea

Minnie Murray
June 3, 2018

"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.

The Pentagon said the decision to disinvite the Chinese Navy was triggered by what it called strong evidence that China has deployed weapons systems on the islands, and called on China to remove them.

Mattis said in his prepared remarks that "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". Beijing has repeatedly warned the United States against sending warships to patrol the South China Sea.

In a more conciliatory tone, Mattis said the United States would continue to pursue "cooperation whenever possible".

Jim Mattis said the Pentagon will "compete vigorously" on the issue if needed.

The U.S. Navy on Sunday conducted the latest of its "freedom of navigation" patrols near China-occupied features to demonstrate the right to sail through what it considers to be global waters.

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.

China has sent a relatively low-level delegation to this year's Shangri-La forum, and there is now no Chinese official scheduled to give the traditional Sunday speech to the gathering, in what had become an outlet for a riposte to the U.S.

China's state-run Global Times newspaper said in an editorial tension in the South China Sea was "due to the USA 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 U.S. more excuses to exert military pressure, causing regional tensions to spiral", the Global Times said.

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".

Mattis said he plans to travel to Beijing later this month.

On Sunday, two USA warships sailed within 12 nautical miles of the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, drawing a sharp rebuke from China.

The bluster comes at a delicate time in US-China relations, as the Trump administration is warily asking for China's help with North Korea ahead of a June 12 summit, while also threatening a trade war. China protested the move. President Donald Trump on Friday said the summit will take place June 12. China has not sent high-level officials to the three-day meeting, in an apparent attempt to deflect attention from its campaign to expand its sovereignty across virtually the entire South China Sea.

Mr Mattis only made a glancing reference to North Korea, reiterating that it was a diplomatically led effort and the objective remained the "complete verifiable, and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula".

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".

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