Mattis: US will confront China on militarization of islands

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has in recent weeks been highly critical of alleged abuse suffered by some of the two million Filipino workers in the Middle East

Philippines Foreign Minister Duterte Ready to ‘Go to War’ over South China Sea AFP 29 May 2018

Two U.S. Navy warships sailed near South China Sea (SCS) region on Sunday as part of Freedom of Navigation exercise.

Philippines island construction: the island nation itself "has started repairing a runway and upgrading other facilities on Thitu Island, the South China Sea territory that was past year the scene of a stand-off between Chinese and Philippine vessels", according to the South China Morning Post.

The statement described the exercises, believed to have been carried out around Woody Island in the Paracels, as preparation for "the West Pacific and the battle for the South China Sea".

The foreign secretary remains resolute saying both the Philippines and China have set rules, relating to the South China Sea dispute, which must be respected by either party.

Esperon assured that the government is not remiss in finding diplomatic approaches to address issues over the South China Sea, officially recognized in the country as the West Philippine Sea.

"We are now working hard for a framework that would not go against the Constitution for the exploration of natural resources. They said some red lines, we said some red lines". "As the President said, we are not slaves to anyone", he pointed out.

"It's unhelpful to mutual understanding between China and the US".

"We note with serious concern the growing militarization in the area, such as the deployment of military assets, especially on features near the Philippine territory", Esperon said.

Esperon said the Philippines is building five lighthouses on the Kalayaan Group of Islands, a feature of Spratlys in the West Philippine Sea which is claimed by Manila, according to ABS-CBN News.

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"Or, if our people are hurt there at Pag-asa Island".

China says navy pilots aboard the country's sole operating aircraft carrier have completed their first nighttime takeoffs and landings.

However he mentioned it was unfair to single out China for its superior militarization within the South China Sea.

Mattis said American ships are maintaining a "steady drumbeat" of naval operations around the disputed islands, adding that "only one country" seems to be bothered by the vessels' routine activities.

Mattis said USA diplomats were engaged on the issue and he had heard concerns about Chinese actions not just from within the United States government, but also from regional allies.

Mattis' comments came after Beijing expressed "firm opposition" on Sunday after two United States warships sailed within 12 nautical miles of four artificial islands claimed by China in the disputed Paracel island chain, east of Vietnam.

"We have been filing diplomatic protests but our critics want us to shout loudly", Cayetano said. There are multiple territorial claims from Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and Vietnam on the islands.

Manila is pursuing a joint exploration agreement with Beijing for oil and pure gasoline reserves of their claimed territory within the South China Sea.

The South China Sea is expected to be a major focus this week when Mattis heads to Singapore to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual gathering of Asian defense and other leaders. He will be replaced by Admiral Philip Davidson.

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