South China Sea dispute: Beijing attacks 'irresponsible' U.S. comments

From left Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Australia's Defense Minister Marise Payne

From left Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Australia's Defense Minister Marise Payne. AAP

China's militarization of the South China Sea was also a focal point of the meeting.

Beijing's military buildup in the South China Sea calls into question its broader goals in the region, the United States secretary of defense told a high-profile worldwide security forum on Saturday.

From left, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and China's People's Liberation Army's Academy of Military Science Deputy President He Lei pose for photos at a ministerial roundtable on the sidelines of the 17th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-la Dialogue.

The ministers gave speeches on Sunday, the final day of the conference in Singapore that is known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.

The comments came on the heels of a string of events that highlight the tension between the world's two biggest economies over the South China Sea's disputed waters.

China's construction of military facilities and deployment of defense systems on disputed islands in the South China Sea in recent months caused concerns from countries in the region.

"All irresponsible remarks [on the subject] are an infringement of China's domestic affairs." he told a press conference just two hours after Mattis said in his speech at the event that Beijing had been "intimidating and coercing" its neighbours with its military activities in the disputed waterway.

"The U.S. will continue to pursue a constructive, results-oriented relationship with China, cooperation whenever possible will be the name of the game and competing vigorously where we must. of course we recognise any sustainable Indo-Pacific order has a role for China", he said.

Several countries - China, Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei - have been fighting over the resource-rich South China Sea for years.

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The and regional allies accuse China of militarising the region as part of its efforts to lay claim to the contested territory.

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.

South Korea and Japan have expressed concern that Mr Trump may put USA security interests ahead of theirs in pursuing a deal with North Korea.

Mattis is again representing the this year's forum, which comes amid on-again, off-again prospects for a summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that had been planned for this month.

The Pentagon said the decision to disinvite the Chinese Navy was triggered by what it called strong evidence that China has deployed weapons systems on the islands, and called on China to remove them.

The US wanted complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, he added.

The US is reportedly considering a more assertive approach in the region, including longer patrols, more warships and closer surveillance of Chinese bases. The world's second largest economy is boosting its military capabilities there and analysts say there's really not a whole lot the USA can do about it.

"We do not do freedom of navigation for America alone, we do freedom of navigation for all nations. we do not see it as a militarization by going through what has traditionally been global water space".

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