Mattis warns of consequences if Beijing keeps militarizing the South China Sea

Mattis warns of consequences if Beijing keeps militarizing the South China Sea

Mattis warns of consequences if Beijing keeps militarizing the South China Sea

But in a quick pivot, he said the USA welcomes cooperation with China "wherever possible", and announced that he has accepted Beijing's invitation to visit there soon.

Parly and her British counterpart Gavin Williamson said they plan to sail their warships across the South China Sea to demonstrate their right to traverse worldwide waters, the South China Morning Post reported Monday.

"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.

Speaking in Singapore, General Mattis said Beijing's actions called into question its broader goals.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, left, poses with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during a meeting on the sidelines of the 17th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-la Dialogue, an annual defense and security forum in Asia, at the Istana or presidential palace, Friday, June 1, 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. Neighboring nations fear China will use the facilities to reach further militarily and potentially restrict navigation.

In May, the Chinese military landed nuclear-capable bombers on its artificial islands for the first time.

Beijing has not yet responded to the announcement.

Earlier in the week, Mattis warned the United States will continue "a steady drumbeat" of naval exercises to challenge China's territorial claims in the waterway, and this weekend said, "there are consequences that will continue to come home to roost" if China does not act more transparently and cooperatively in the region.

The warning, in response to a question from an audience member, came after a speech by Mattis in which he said "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".

China accused the U.S. of trespassing after two Navy warships sailed near a reef claimed by Beijing on Sunday.

"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. Beijing sees United States actions as an attempt at containment.

Vietnam and the Philippines vigorously contest some of the islands that China has militarized and were once more outspoken against China.

"By exercising our freedom of navigation, we also place ourselves in the position of a persistent objector to the creation of any claim to de facto sovereignty on the islands", she said.

"China should and does have a voice in shaping the worldwide system, and all of China's neighbors have a voice in shaping China's role", said Mattis, adding that he would travel to Beijing soon "at China's invitation".

Washington does not have a claim in the South China Sea but regards it as an worldwide waterway.

The U.S. military presence in the region is not limited to the Korean Peninsula.

Under President Donald Trump's new National Security Strategy unveiled past year, US policymakers are now frequently pledging to defend a "free and open Indo-Pacific", a term that is more inclusive than the more widely used "Asia Pacific" as it encompasses the Indian Ocean and India, a key USA ally that is also being threatened by Beijing's aggression.

Mattis also touched upon the status of Taiwan, an issue bound to ruffle feathers in Beijing.

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