U.S. defense chief Jim Mattis rebukes Chinese 'intimidation' in South China Sea

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Earlier on Saturday, US Defense Secretary James Mattis lambasted Beijing at the summit for building up military presence on disputed South China Sea islands.

On the Trump administration's relations with USA allies and neighbors, including the recent move to place tariffs on Canada, Mexico, and the European Union, Mattis acknowledged there had been "some unusual approaches".

The U.S. Department of Defense is also committed to working with Taiwan so the self-ruled island can maintain sufficient self defense, the defense secretary continued.

Singapore-based security expert Tim Huxley said while increased pressure might slow China's militarization efforts, they would be hard to stop.

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

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

USA officials have not yet commented on, at what stage is the decision.

"China's militarization of artificial features in the South China Sea includes the deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, electronic jammers and more recently, the landing of bomber aircraft at woody island despite China's claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapon systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion", Mattis said. "No one nation can and should dominate the Indo-Pacific", he said.

China claims most of the resource-rich sea, through which $5 trillion in shipping trade passes annually, with competing claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. Beijing sees USA actions as an attempt at containment.

"I believe there are much larger consequences in the future", he said.

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China has a "sovereign and legal right for China to place our army and military weapons there", he said, "We see any other country that tries to make noise about this as interfering in our internal affairs".

Hours after Mattis spoke, Chinese Lieutenant General He Lei lashed out at "irresponsible comments" on China's build-up in the South China Sea.

The incident was the first time Donald Trump's administration challenged Chinese claims to the disputed waters but Mr Mattis' speech represents a step up in the war of words.

Mattis emphasized that the US military wants more transparency from China.

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

"We did not do freedom of navigation for America alone", Mattis said.

Senator Payne, in addressing the same forum, had insisted nations have a right to be free from coercion when they reasonably object to the behaviour of other nations.

Although France is not a claimant in the South China Sea dispute, by conducting such exercises "on a regular basis with allies and friends" it is contributing to a rule-based order, according to Parly.

The US cancelled China's participation in the multinational Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval drills after China confirmed reports the People's Liberation Army had installed missile systems in the disputed Spratly chain.