China general slams 'irresponsible comments' on South China Sea

China general slams 'irresponsible comments' on South China Sea

China general slams 'irresponsible comments' on South China Sea

Mr Mattis's comments drew a pointed reaction from a Chinese official at the meeting.

China's military build-up in the South China Sea and its deployment of high-end weapons systems in the disputed waters is created to intimidate and coerce neighbours, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Saturday.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis delivers his speech during the first plenary session of the 17th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-la Dialogue, an annual defense and security forum in Asia, in Singapore, Saturday, June 2, 2018, in Singapore.

But such actions are still "a relatively small outcome", the defense secretary said, adding: "I believe there are much larger consequences in the future when nations lose the rapport of their neighbors".

A Chinese general Saturday lashed out at "irresponsible comments" on Beijing's military build-up in the South China Sea after the USA defence chief accused China of intimidation and coercion in the disputed waters.

Speaking at the same conference in Singapore, Lt Gen He Lei said, "Any irresponsible comments from other countries can not be accepted".

Earlier that week, the Pentagon withdrew an invitation to China to participate in the world's largest multinational maritime exercise RIMPAC as "an initial response to China's continued militarisation of the South China Sea".

Questioned during the Shangri-La Dialogue security conference over whether it was too late to stop China, Mattis said: "Eventually these (actions) do not pay off".

Andrew Yang, a former Taiwanese defence minister who is also at the security conference in Singapore, said he expected the USA to tread carefully on the Taiwan issue so as not to provoke the mainland into taking military action against the self-ruled island.

But he also said the USA welcomes cooperation with China "wherever possible", and announced that he has accepted Beijing's invitation to visit soon.

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In a meeting with former President Barack Obama during a visit to the U.S. in 2015, China's President Xi Jinping denied the country had plans to establish military strongholds in the South China Sea.

The South China Sea is a highly contentious area in which China, Brunei, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines have competing claims.

Mattis also sought to calm nervous allies in the region.

Gen He added: "We see any other country that tries to make noise about this as interfering in our internal affairs".

Discussion about the number of U.S troops in South Korea is subject to bilateral discussions between Washington and Seoul that are separate from the North Korea negotiations, Mattis said. 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.

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, while anti-ship cruise missiles and anti-air missiles were also placed on its largest bases in the Spratlys.

In an exchange with Mattis, Senior Colonel Zhao Xiaozhuo, deputy director of the Center on China-US Defense Relations in the PLA's Academy of Military Science, said that sending warships into Chinese territorial waters was a violation of the country's law.

"We did not do freedom of navigation for America alone", Mattis said.

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.

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