Tuesday, 20 November, 2018

Mattis says United States to continue operations in South China Sea

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis speaks to reporters aboard a US military plane US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis speaks to reporters aboard a US military plane
Faye Gross | 31 May, 2018, 19:50

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis was unequivocal on Tuesday in his insistence that US freedom of navigation operations (FONOP) in the South China Sea would continue, despite Beijing's protestations.

On Sunday, two USA warships sailed close to the Paracel Islands, which lie north of the Spratlys, the latest freedom of navigation operation created to challenge Beijing's claims.

Mattis said USA ships are maintaining a "steady drumbeat" of naval operations and will confront "what we believe is out of step with worldwide law".

Mattis says the United States will confront "what we believe is out of step with worldwide law".

The US Navy sent two warships to a disputed archipelago in the South China Sea on May 28 in its latest symbolic protest against China's claims there.

Mattis is set to deliver a speech on Saturday titled "US leadership and the challenges of Indo-Pacific security", which makes reference to China's increasing maritime competition with powers such as the U.S. and India.

Mattis was heading to Hawaii to attend a change-of-command ceremony for the USA military's Pacific Command. Harris has been nominated to become the next USA ambassador to South Korea.

AP reports it was these weapons platforms which prompted the U.S.to disinvite China from the annual RIMPAC naval exercises, a series of cooperative global exercises led by the U.S. After North Korea threatened to withdraw from the summit last week, Trump attributed the "change in attitude" to the influence of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who recently met with Kim.

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According to the USA, the freedom of navigation missions are meant to underscore the rights of the US and others to operate in worldwide waters and airspace and to block efforts by any nation to unlawfully extend their boundaries or territorial rights.

Earlier this month, China's air force landed bombers on disputed islands and reefs in the South China Sea as part of a training exercise in the region. It called on China to remove the systems.

The ministry was responding to a USA destroyer and cruiser sailing within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands, which are claimed by China, as well as Taiwan and Vietnam.

"They're freedom of navigation operations".

As Mattis states, there's "only one country" that seems to be resentful of, and emphasize its opposition to, the maintenance of free and open trade lanes.

However, from the perspective of the USA and the other nations bordering the South China Sea, freedom of navigation on the busiest sea lanes in the world is crucial to maintaining free and equitable trade, and economic stability.

On Sunday, the U.S. Navy conducted freedom of navigation operations in the disputed South China Sea, sparking an angry response from Beijing who voiced its "strong dissatisfaction" with the moves. Ousting China from the exercise could signal that joint activities, or the military relationship as a whole, are a reward.

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