Mattis warns of Chinese 'intimidation'; says U.S. seeks 'results-oriented' ties

Defense Secretary James Mattis Japan\'s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and China\'s People\'s Liberation Army\'s Academy of Military Science Deputy President He Lei in Singapore on Saturday

Mattis on Saturday referred to that disinvitation as an "initial response" to China, but he did not outline any additional steps that may be taken.

Speaking in Singapore, General Mattis said Beijing's actions called into question its broader goals.

Mattis's comments appeared to be an attempt to reaffirm the USA commitment to Asia's security, even as President Donald Trump's decisions to levy tariffs on allies and withdraw from global agreements raise questions about America's postwar alliances.

"Despite China's claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapon systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion", Mattis told the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

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

During a question and answer session afterward, Mattis fielded a question from a Chinese colonel, who claimed that US freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) are a provocation that violate worldwide law.

Despite He's admission, he batted back Mattis' accusations, saying that the "close-up reconnaissance" carried out by two USA warships - which sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands last week - was the real "source of militarisation" in the region.

As expected, the Pentagon chief gave only a brief mention of the ongoing negotiations for an historic summit later this month between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Mattis' remarks follow a rocky past few weeks in US-China relations as the administration of US President Donald Trump seeks to balance cooperation with China on issues like North Korea with dealing with Beijing's activities in the disputed sea.

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Last week the USA withdrew an invitation for Beijing to participate the exercise known as Rim of the Pacific.

China's state-run Global Times newspaper said in an editorial tension in the South China Sea was "due to the USA continuing to increase its military presence in the region, forcing China to naturally upgrade its defensive weapons on the islands". "Eventually these things do not pay off, even if on the financial ledger sheet, or the power ledger sheet they appear to".

China accused the United States of trespassing after two Navy warships sailed near a reef claimed by Beijing on Sunday.

China has sent a relatively low-level delegation to this year's Shangri-La forum, and there is now no Chinese official scheduled to give the traditional Sunday speech to the gathering, in what had become an outlet for a riposte to the U.S.

"These waters, to us, are free and open worldwide waters", he said.

Mattis only made a glancing reference to North Korea, reiterating that it was a diplomatically led effort and the objective remained the "complete verifiable, and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula".

"The US will continue to pursue a constructive, results-oriented relationship with China".

During his trip to Singapore, Mattis has been reluctant to discuss the summit preparations, instead insisting that the Pentagon is focused on backing up US diplomats leading the process.

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