Mattis slams China on South China Sea island weaponization

The Spokesman-Review
Date: June 1, 2018
By Lolita C. Baldor, Associated Press

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, right, meets with Indonesia’s Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu before their meeting with the Southeast Asian defense ministers at the 17th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-la Dialogue, an annual defense and security forum in Asia, in Singapore on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Yong Teck Lim / AP)

SINGAPORE – China’s placement of weapons systems on manmade islands in the South China Sea is designed to intimidate and coerce others in the region, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Saturday, laying out a sharp criticism of Beijing at an international security forum and threatening larger consequences if militarization continues.

He warned that America’s recent move to disinvite China from a multinational naval exercise this summer was an “initial response” to the militarization of the islands. It was, he said, a “relatively small consequence, I believe there are much larger consequences in the future.”

China relying on muscle to use weapons to pursue goals not favored by international tribunals “is not a way to make long-term collaboration the rule of the road in a region that’s important to China’s future,” Mattis said, when asked to elaborate more on the consequences. “There are consequences that will continue to come home to roost, so to speak, with China, if they don’t find a way to work more collaboratively with all of the nations who have interests.”

The U.S., he said, remains committed to ensuring free and open transit in the region. And he said he doesn’t believe that China’s actions will pay off. Militarizing the islands, Mattis said, will not enhance China’s standing in the world.

“Despite China’s claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion,” Mattis said, referring to the recent deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, electronic jammers and other equipment on the Spratly Islands, and the landing of bomber aircraft at Woody Island.

Mattis also struck at one of the key, longstanding disputes between the U.S. and China, telling the conference that America will continue to provide defense equipment and services to Taiwan and oppose any effort to alter the status quo. China claims the self-governing island as its own territory to be brought under its control by force if necessary.    [FULL  STORY]