Beijing’s South China Sea encroachment on agenda for meetings in Southeast Asia
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis this week voiced new U.S. opposition to China’s continued militarization of islands in the South China Sea.
“We remain highly concerned with continued militarization of features in the South China Sea,” Mattis told reporters on Monday as he traveled to Vietnam.
Mattis also said China is using predatory economics to seek control over other nations.
The Chinese are engaged in a global infrastructure development plan called the Belt and Road Initiative that U.S. officials have said is being used by Beijing to expand influence and control abroad, and expand Chinese military bases around the world.
Mattis said the predatory economic policies include loans “where massive debt is piled on countries that fiscal analysis would say they are going to have difficulty, at best, repaying in the smaller countries.”
The defense secretary, echoing the new U.S. hardline policy toward China, said the United States is not seeking to “contain” China but wants more reciprocal relations.
“We seek a relationship with China that’s grounded in fairness, reciprocity, and respect for sovereignty, and that means respect for international rules and for all nations’ sovereignty, whether they’re large or small,” Mattis said.
The militarization of the disputed South China Sea islands includes deployment of advanced anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles. Electronic jamming equipment also was fielded in recent months.
A senior Pentagon official disclosed in June that the missiles include YJ-12B anti-ship cruise missiles that are capable of targeting U.S. warships as far as 340 miles away.
The air defense missiles include either HQ-9A or HQ-9B long-range surface-to-air missiles with ranges of up to 184 miles.
China recently broke military ties with the Pentagon after the Trump administration imposed economic sanctions on the People’s Liberation Army department in charge of arms procurement and the general who leads it.
The sanctions were a punitive reaction to China’s purchase of Russian jets and missiles in violation of an American law designed to punish Moscow for its takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea.
Mattis was originally scheduled to visit China as part of the Southeast Asia trip. The stop in Beijing was canceled after China informed the Pentagon that a Chinese official of equal rank to the defense secretary was unavailable. The move was a further reflection of Chinese military anger over the recent sanctions on the PLA.
China also canceled a port call by a U.S. warship to Hong Kong and put off U.S.-China military talks in Beijing. A Chinese admiral who was scheduled to meet with the Navy’s top official, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson was recalled as well.
In another sign of heightened tensions, the FBI also arrested a Chinese Ministry of State Security intelligence officer last week and charged him with economic espionage.
Tensions with China also increased after a Chinese warship recently passed within 45 yards of the guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur, nearly causing a collision.
Vice President Mike Pence, in a recent speech, also accused the Chinese of seeking to unseat President Trump in the 2020 elections.
Regarding the Pence speech and a new approach to China, Mattis said the vice president’s message is similar to his view that the United States and China will cooperate in some areas, like on pressuring North Korea within the United Nations.
On the South China Sea and other international waters China is seeking to control, “we continue to sail through areas,” Mattis said, noting that Chinese President Xi Jinping promised at the White House several years ago that the Spratly Islands would not be militarized.
The militarization “happened, but our policy has not changed, we do not accept that,” he said. “No one nation can change the international rules of the road.”
Full article: Mattis: China’s Island Militarization Continues (Washington Free Beacon)