Vastavam web: China’s military build-up in the South China Sea and its deployment of high-end weapons systems in the disputed waterway is designed to intimidate and coerce neighbours, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said today.Speaking at a high-profile security summit in Singapore less than two weeks before President Donald Trump is due to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the Pentagon chief also said the US military continues to support diplomats pushing for the “complete, verifiable and irreversible” denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
Mattis said Beijing had deployed a range of military hardware including anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles and electronic jammers across the South China Sea, where it has built islets and other maritime features into hardened military facilities.”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 told the Shangri-La Dialogue.
He also blasted Chinese President Xi Jinping for reneging on a 2015 promise made at the White House that Beijing would not militarise the island features in the South China Sea.Mattis’ address in Singapore was the second time he had attended the summit since becoming Pentagon chief.But the message of inclusivity, cooperation and working with allies might be a tougher sell for Mattis, who is generally popular on the international scene, after his boss this week imposed metals tariffs on some of America’s closest allies in the name of “national security”.
Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin asked Mattis whether he thought it was unproductive for Trump to pick fights with allies on trade.”Certainly we have had some unusual approaches, I’ll be candid with you,” Mattis replied.”But I’m reminded that so long as nations continue dialogue, so long as they continue to listen to one another and to pay respect to one another, nothing is over based on one decision.” One modest exception came last week when the Pentagon disinvited China from biennial maritime exercises in the Pacific. Mattis characterised this action as an “initial response”.
But “there are much larger consequences in the future when nations lose the rapport of their neighbours,” he warned.”They believe that piling mountainous debts on their neighbours and somehow removing the freedom of political action is the way to engage them. Eventually these things do not pay off.” 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 US troops in South Korea will not be “on the table”.
Mattis has tried to avoid weighing in on the summit, deferring questions to the State Department and Trump’s national security team.