Mattis warns of 'consequences' if Beijing continues with 'intimidation and coercion'

US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis speaks at the IISS Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore. (Reuters pic

US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis speaks at the IISS Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore. (Reuters pic

The, a state backed Chinese tabloid that does not reflect official policy, said in an editorial on Thursday that China must prepare to forcefully respond to any "extreme" USA interference in the South China Sea.

The defence ministers of France and Britain said on Sunday during the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore that they will deploy warships to the South China Sea, in order to challenge Beijing's expanding military presence in the disputed waters.

His comments come just 24 hours after US Secretary of Defence James Mattis warned China of "consequences" if it continued to militarise the South China Sea.

The Shangri-La Dialogue 2018, or 17th Asia Security Summit, was launched in 2002 by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a British think tank, and the Singaporean government.

Vietnam and the Philippines expressed concern last month after China's air force landed bombers on the islands and reefs in the South China Sea as part of a training exercise in the area.

Satellite photographs taken on May 12 showed China appeared to have deployed truck-mounted surface-to-air missiles or anti-ship cruise missiles at Woody Island in the disputed sea.

China's Defense Ministry on Thursday said it still hoped for a "sound a healthy" relationship with the USA military.

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

Critics said the patrols have little impact on Chinese behaviour and mask the lack of strategy to deal with China's growing dominance of the area.

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China claims almost the complete resource-rich sea, via which $5 trillion in delivery commerce passes yearly, with competing claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Many nations fear that Beijing will use the construction on the islands to extend its military reach and potentially try to restrict navigation in the South China Sea.

Defense ministers at the Asia Security Summit have welcomed the first meeting of the U.S. and North Korean leaders scheduled for June 12th.

Taiwan and China, which are hundreds of miles to the north, also claim some of the islands.

"If the diplomats can do their work, if we can reduce the threat, if we can restore confidence building measures with something verifiable, then of course these kinds of issues can come up subsequently between two sovereign democracies, the Republic of Korea and the United States", Mattis said.

Despite He's admission, he batted back Mattis' accusations, saying that the "close-up reconnaissance" carried out by two United States warships - which sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands last week - was the real "source of militarisation" in the region.

There are now about 28,500 USA troops based in South Korea.

CNBC reports his comment could refer to China's One Belt One Road policy, which calls for $1 trillion of investment in infrastructure and other projects along trade routes linking China to Europe, Russia, Central and Southeast Asia, and Africa. But Representative Mac Thornberry, chairman of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, told reporters he believed that attitudes to China in the region are hardening.

"We do not do freedom of navigation for America alone, we do freedom of navigation for all nations. we do not see it as a militarization by going through what has traditionally been global water space".

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