U.S. accuses China of 'intimidation' in South China Sea

U.S. accuses China of 'intimidation' in South China Sea

U.S. accuses China of 'intimidation' in South China Sea

But he also said the US welcomes cooperation with China "wherever possible", and announced that he has accepted Beijing's invitation to visit soon.

Speaking at the summit, Mattis also noted that the United States had a history of cooperating with both Russian Federation and China and stressed they should be able to overcome their differences.

"Despite China's claim to the contrary, the placement of these weapon systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion", Mattis said.

Mattis warned there could be "much larger consequences" in the future from China's installation of weapons on disputed islands, the Wall Street Journal reported.

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

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".

Despite He's admission, he batted back Mattis' accusations, saying that the "close-up reconnaissance" carried out by two U.S. warships - which sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands last week - was the real "source of militarisation" in the region.

From left, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and China's People's Liberation Army's Academy of Military Science Deputy President He Lei pose for photos at a ministerial roundtable on the sidelines of the 17th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-la Dialogue. Airstrips have already been constructed, and in May, China landed nuclear capable bombers on contested islands in the area.

Speaking at a high-profile security summit in Singapore 10 days before President Donald Trump is due to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the Pentagon chief also said the United States military continues to support diplomats pushing for the "complete, verifiable and irreversible" denuclearization of the Korean peninsula (see story on D1). China claims Taiwan as its own and it is one of its most sensitive issues.

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He also likened the construction of military outposts in the South China Sea to the decision by late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping to send a PLA garrison to Hong Kong after the 1997 handover, in a show of the country's sovereignty in the region.

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".

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".

Mattis said this was just an "initial response".

"America has expanded its engagement and deepened its connectivity across the region.so make no mistake, America is in the Indo-Pacific to stay, this is our priority theatre, our interests and the region's are inextricably intertwined", Mattis said.

He did however, seek to calm nervous allies in the region.

"That issue will not come up in the negotiations with DPRK ... nor should it", he said, using an acronym for North Korea's official name.

During his speech, Onodera repeatedly spoke of the need to deal with the threat of North Korea's ballistic missiles "of all flight ranges".

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