Royal Navy warships deployed to South China Sea to send 'signal'

From left Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Australia's Defense Minister Marise Payne

The remarks were made by He Lei, vice president of the Academy of Military Science of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, in response to remarks on the South China Sea made by U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis at the on-going 17th Asia Security Summit, also known as the Shangri-la Dialogue, which opened in Singapore on Friday. He returned to a theme that he and other senior USA officials have hammered home since Trump took office-that America is here to stay in the Asia-Pacific region and that allies should stick with Washington instead of aligning with Beijing.

The United States will increase naval patrols in the South China sea in an attempt to challenge the growing militarization of China.

Despite his criticism, Gen Mattis added that the U.S. would "continue to pursue a constructive, results-oriented relationship with China" with "co-operation whenever possible".

Mattis vowed that the United States will push back against Beijing's aggression, amid growing concerns that the established USA presence and security assurances across the western Pacific region are being eroded by the Chinese regime's encroachments.

Mr Mattis also said the issue of USA troops in South Korea was "not on the table" at this month's summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-un.

Last week the US withdrew an invitation for Beijing to participate the exercise known as Rim of the Pacific.

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Reuters first reported that two U.S. Navy warships sailed near South China Sea islands claimed by China on Sunday.

Recent satellite photographs showed China appeared to have deployed truck-mounted surface-to-air missiles or anti ship cruise missiles at Woody Island.

China has indisputable sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and the adjacent waters, a fact verified by historical evidence and supported by worldwide law, he said.

Senior Col. Zhao Xiaozhuo said a US move to send two warships into China's "territorial waters" was a violation of law, and an "obvious provocation to China's national security and territorial integrity". "This is our priority theater", Mattis said.

"The placement of these weapon systems is tied directly to military use for the goal of intimidation and coercion", Mattis said.

He called the USA action a "relatively small consequence".

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The two sides issued a joint statement in Washington last month, vowing to strengthen economic and trade cooperation between the two countries.

The US wanted complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, he added.

"It would be a lose-lose scenario for the world if the USA and China are unwilling to work together for an inclusive system that both large and small states can benefit from, and where rules apply to all", Ng said.

Just last week, the United States renamed its Pacific Command the "Indo-Pacific Command", a term that reflects the subtle shifting and upgrading of US defense strategy in the region.

"We do freedom of navigation, give freedom for all nations, large and small, that need to transit those waters for their own prosperity and they have every reason to do so".

Discussion about the number of U.S troops in South Korea is subject to bilateral discussions between Washington and Seoul that are separate from the North Korea negotiations, Mattis said. Despite frequent warnings from Washington about China's rising might and the pitfalls of its "Belt and Road" global infrastructure initiative, Beijing has faced few consequences for its South China Sea build-up and sweeping territorial claims.

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