Thursday, 18 October, 2018

Mattis says U.S. to continue operations in South China Sea

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis speaks to reporters aboard a US military plane US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis speaks to reporters aboard a US military plane
Charlie Simmons | 01 June, 2018, 17:37

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is as mercurial as Trump: He has in the past threatened to ride a jetski to disputed islands in the South China Sea and plant a flag to keep China at bay but he also claimed to be Chinese as part of his ongoing flattery of the Chinese leadership.

"We conduct routine and regular Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs), as we have done in the past and will continue to do in the future", U.S. Pacific Fleet said in a statement.

The Pentagon sent two USA warships through the waters of the South China Sea over the weekend, a public demonstration of the right of free passage in worldwide waters and, in the process, sending China a message.

China said it dispatched warships to identify and warn off a pair of U.S. Navy vessels sailing near one of its island claims in the South China Sea.

Mattis said USA ships are maintaining a "steady drumbeat" of naval operations and will confront "what we believe is out of step with global law".

On Sunday, two USA warships sailed close to islands occupied by China in the Paracel group, and last week the United States military withdrew China's invitation to take part in the upcoming Rim of the Pacific exercise in Hawaii "as an initial response to China's continued militarisation of the South China Sea".

"He stated that they would not be militarizing the islands, we have seen in the last month they have done exactly that, moving weaponry in that was never there before", Mattis said. "We want to start digging for oil and gas in the South China Sea".

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China thought otherwise, calling the presence of the USA ships unauthorized and provocative.

"Aside from deploying defensive weapons on the Spratly Islands, China should build a powerful deterrence system, including an aerial base and a roving naval force and base", the paper said. Ousting China from the exercise could signal that joint activities, or the military relationship as a whole, are a reward. "But it's worldwide waters, and a lot of nations want to see freedom of navigation, so we'll continue that", he said. This year's agenda is expected to be dominated by South China Sea disputes and the North Korean nuclear crisis.

Esperon added that there are no islands occupied by China under the Duterte administration, despite the softened stance of the President over the hotly-contested waters.

He said the government is also upgrading its military facilities on Pagasa Island, the largest of nine features the Philippines occupies in the West Philippine Sea. "If there's multiple nation militarizing, and it isn't exclusively the islands, if big navies are crusing by means of the world, is that not militarization?" he mentioned.

He is stopping in Hawaii to mark a change in leadership at US Pacific Command.

"You'll notice there is only one country that seems to take active steps to rebuff them or state their resentment [to] them, but it's global waters and a lot of nations want to see freedom of navigation", Mattis told reporters while enroute to Hawaii.

Harris has been nominated to become the next USA ambassador to South Korea.

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