World News

Mattis says U.S. to continue operations in South China Sea

Mattis says U.S. to continue operations in South China Sea

He is stopping in Hawaii to mark a change in leadership at US Pacific Command. Harris has been nominated to become the next US ambassador to South Korea.

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 is then due to attend a regional security conference in Singapore. China protested the maneuver.

Pag-asa, better known as Thitu, is the largest of the islands and outcrops garrisoned by Philippine troops in the disputed areas of the South China Sea.

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.

China is North Korea's traditional ally and is wary of any shift in the balance of power on the Korean Peninsula.

However, from the perspective of the US 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.

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Pentagon officials have long complained that China has not been candid enough about its rapid military build-up and using South China Sea islands to gather intelligence.

President Rodrigo Duterte has taken flak in recent weeks for not confronting Beijing following news that China had installed missile systems on artificial islands in the busy waterway, including areas within Manila's Exclusive Economic Zone. It called on China to remove the systems. China also landed a bomber at Woody Island. "We have seen in the last month they've done exactly that, moving weaponry in that was never there before", Mattis said.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, despite overlapping claims with other countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Mattis said other nations in the region are concerned about the weaponization of the islands and reefs, and they want to see continued freedom of navigation operations in the worldwide waters.

The revocation of the exercise invitation, however, could undermine historical arguments the USA has made urging China not to hold the two nations' military relationship hostage to other broader issues - such as differences over Taiwan.

Political analyst and youtuber Black Pigeon Speaks explains why the investment that China is making to militarize the region is only useful for psychological and propagandistic purposes, and would serve nearly no strategic value if directly challenged by the USA military.

Political opponents are outraged at his government's failure even to lodge a diplomatic protest, but Duterte, unlike his predecessor, enjoys good relations with Beijing and wants its investment, often saying he can not afford to go to war with a far superior China.


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