Wednesday, 20 June, 2018

US plans 'steady drumbeat' of exercises in South China Sea, Mattis says

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
Jay Anderson | 01 June, 2018, 17:37

On May 23, the United States rescinded its invitation to China to attend the biennial Rim of the Pacific naval exercises this summer, citing Beijing's continued militarization of the South China Sea.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis speaks to reporters about North Korea at the Pentagon, May 25, 2018.

On Sunday, two US 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.

But speaking at a hearing focusing on the South China Sea on Wednesday at the legislative assembly, former Philippine maritime officer Rep. Gary Alejano revealed just how quiet the government's been in dealing with China in the disputed waters. "We are not saying we are going to war, but if they oppress us that may force our hand, because we will not allow ourselves to be oppressed".

"The Philippine government continuously monitors the actions of the various claimants in the SCS/WPS (South China Sea/West Philippine Sea)".

However, Cayetano said the president, who has been criticised for his refusal to confront China with the Philippines' 2016 victory at the Hague Tribunal, had warned that he would go to war with Beijing if it broke his "red lines" relating to the South China Sea.

In response to Chinese activities, the USA made a decision to disinvite China from this year's Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises, the largest worldwide maritime drills in the world.

"While China has maintained that the construction of the islands is to ensure safety at sea, navigation assistance, search and rescue, fisheries protection and other non-military functions, the placement of these weapon systems is only for military use", Logan said.




"China also assured us with our good relationship that we are not their enemy", he said.

Its neighbours, particularly some of those involved in maritime disputes over the waters, have expressed fears China could eventually restrict freedom of navigation and overflight.

The Pentagon, as it nearly always does, says the sailings were planned months in advance and that the timing in relation to recent tensions between China and the United States is coincidental. "If there's multiple nation militarizing, and it isn't exclusively the islands, if big navies are crusing by means of the world, is that not militarization?" he mentioned.

But if deemed necessary, Esperon said, the Philippines will look into the option of fighting back if China will coerce or hurt Filipino troops and civilians based on the islands located in disputed areas.

Duterte's national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon said that the Philippines will always pursue diplomacy to defuse tensions, but that it would also be prepared to enter a conflict should their military forces be provoked or hurt.

China has also deployed YJ-12B anti-ship cruise missiles and HQ-9B surface-to-air missiles to islands in the Spratlys, boosting China's ability to combat USA aviation and naval assets should such action be necessary.

Harris has been nominated to become the next USA ambassador to South Korea.

However, Mattis's statements, taken as an indirect response to Beijing, argues that Beijing is the one who is in violation of worldwide law, as United Nations tribunals have on repeated occasions ruled against territorial claims of what China calls the cow's tongue or the nine-dash line, a presumptuous assertion that the entire South China Sea is Chinese territory.

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