Mattis slams China on South China Sea island weaponization

China's sole aircraft carrier the Liaoning, arrives in Hong Kong waters

Defense Secretary James Mattis is warning China there will be consequences if it continues its military buildup in the South China Sea.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reiterated this stance on Saturday at the Singapore meeting, saying that the placement of weapons on South China Sea islands "is tied directly to military use for the goal of intimidation and coercion".

Mr Carr supported comments made by Defence Minister Marise Payne overnight at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual defence and security summit.

He then warned that "there are consequences that will come home to roost if they don't find a way to work collaboratively with neighbours who have interests".

French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly and British Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson issued a joint statement confirming this move at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

The Pentagon chief said the Trump administration's recent decision to withdraw an invitation for Chinese forces to join a multinational naval exercise off Hawaii later in the year was an "initial response" to Beijing's island activity.

A Penatagon statement had said it had "strong evidence" that China has deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile systems and electronic jammers to the Spratly Island region of the South China Sea.

In a dig at China, which the Pentagon has accused of using "predatory" economics to exploit neighbours, Mattis said the United States supports the peaceful resolution of disputes, "free, fair and reciprocal trade and investment" and adherence to global rules and norms.

"If the USA will continue to pursue a constructive results-oriented relationship with China, cooperation, whenever possible, will be the name of the game, and competing vigorously where we must".

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In a meeting with former President Barack Obama during a visit to the United States in 2015, China's President Xi Jinping denied the country had plans to establish military strongholds in the South China Sea.

China claims almost the complete resource-rich sea, via which $5 trillion in delivery commerce passes yearly, with competing claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The and regional allies accuse China of militarising the region as part of its efforts to lay claim to the contested territory.

He said Asia can only prosper under the rule of law, and stressed the importance of a rule-based worldwide order.

"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", Parly added.

Mattis also criticized China's "Belt and Road" initiative without explicitly naming the program, saying that Beijing has to rethink twice if they believe "piling mountainous debts on their neighbors and somehow removing the freedom of political action is the way to engage with them".

Royal Navy frigates HMS Sutherland and HMS Argyll and amphibious assault HMS Albion are being deployed to "send a clear message" to China and North Korea, Williamson said.

In a dig at China, which the Pentagon has accused of using "predatory" economics to exploit neighbours, Mattis said the USA supports the peaceful resolution of disputes, "free, fair and reciprocal trade and investment" and adherence to worldwide rules and norms. His comments come ahead of a planned June 12 summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

He added that the status of USA troops in South Korea was not on the table when Trump and Kim meet, but left the door open to the issue being discussed down the road between Seoul and Washington if certain conditions were met.

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