Mattis warns China over South China Sea

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In a speech to the annual IISS Shangri-La Dialogue security forum in Singapore, Ng said the world's two-biggest economies were similarly using security considerations to justify their behavior - the US on trade and China for its military buildup in the disputed South China Sea.

If China does not find a way to work more collaboratively with countries who have interests in the disputed region, there could be large consequences, the former four-star Marine Corps general said at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual security summit in Singapore.

"I believe there are much larger consequences in the future when nations lose the rapport of their neighbors. eventually these [actions] do not pay off", he said.

Earlier US Defence Secretary James Mattis said Beijing's actions called into question its broader goals.

The comments came on the heels of a string of events that highlight the tension between the world's two biggest economies over the South China Sea's disputed waters.

China has built artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, and the US military says there is a high possibility that China has installed anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles, as part of military exercises.

"All irresponsible remarks [on the subject] are an infringement of China's domestic affairs." he told a press conference just two hours after Mattis said in his speech at the event that Beijing had been "intimidating and coercing" its neighbours with its military activities in the disputed waterway.

"The deployment of forces or equipment on our islands and reefs in the South China Sea is taking place within the framework of our sovereign rights, it is allowed by global law ... anyone who criticizes China's actions is trying to interfere in its domestic affairs", he told a state broadcaster.

"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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Mr Mattis said there was little doubt about Beijing's intentions.

The South China Sea, a key trade route, is subject to overlapping claims by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.

"The facilities and buildings flanked by radar equipment on the tiny islands ... are not for civilian use, but are large-scale military complexes", he said.

He also reiterated that the Pentagon was committed to working with Taiwan to provide articles and services needed for its self defence, comments that are likely to anger China.

Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin asked Mattis whether he thought it was unproductive for Trump to pick fights with allies on trade. "What we see it as, is a reaffirmation of the rules-based order".

The French Minister of Defense, Florence Parly, said she welcomes the signs of dialogue, but added that sanctions should continue until denuclearization is achieved in a full, verifiable and irreversible manner. 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 U.S. troops in South Korea will not be "on the table".

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.

Speaking at a special session of the dialogue, officially known as the Asia Security Summit, He Lei, vice president of the Academy of Military Science of the Chinese People's Liberation Army and the head of the Chinese delegation to the dialogue, said the Asia-Pacific region has witnessed a growing gap between economic development and security, with economy maintaining a steady and fast growth and security still facing many uncertain factors.

The Pentagon is planning to step up its program of so-called freedom-of-navigation operations close to Chinese installations on disputed reefs, two USA officials and Western and Asian diplomats close to discussions told Reuters.