Mattis: U.S. will confront China on militarization of islands

Mattis: U.S. will confront China on militarization of islands

Over the weekend, the Pentagon also sailed two destroyers through the South China Sea as part of a Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) aimed at keeping the waters open for global commerce.

The Vietnamese government protested China's move as a violation of its sovereign claim to the islands-exactly the language used by China to protest USA actions today after sending its own warships to warn away the Americans.

Earlier this month, China's air force landed bombers on disputed islands and reefs in the South China Sea as part of a training exercise in the region.

"The United States military presence in the South China Sea is greater than that of China and other countries that surround the seas combined", Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular briefing.

This is a weekly look at the latest developments in the South China Sea, the location of several territorial conflicts that have raised tensions in the region.

"Our soldiers should not be harassed when they deliver supplies or when they fix the runways", Cayetano said, referring to the small airstrip on Pag-asa [Thitu], the largest Philippine-occupied island in the Spratlys.

Since he assumed office in June 2016, President Duterte has sought to strengthen ties between Manila and Beijing that were strained by the maritime dispute.

It was the primary time multiple United States vessel had been used within the workouts, in line with specialists, a part of a latest escalation in USA opposition to China's motion within the area.

-China relations and the growing rivalry between the two countries.

More news: North Korea must disarm before any economic relief, says Mike Pompeo

The Pentagon last sent a US ship through the same waters in March, near Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands.

Also last week, Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang said that Japan had helped to boost the Southeast Asian nation's maritime defence capability in the disputed waters.

"The government is presently upgrading port and airstrip facilities in Pag-asa Island, in line with efforts to promote the welfare of Filipinos living in the said island", he said. "If there is more than one country militarizing, and it's not only the islands, if huge navies are sailing through the area, is that not militarization?" he said.

Mattis said USA ships are maintaining a "steady drumbeat" of naval operations and will confront "what we believe is out of step with worldwide law".

"It is not the policy of this administration to engage in megaphone or microphone diplomacy, and announce each and every action, unless announcing it is beneficial to us", Cayetano said.

"If the Duterte administration wants the public to trust its approach in the West Philippine Sea, certain details meant for public consumption should be released", he added, referring to the South China Sea by the name used in the Philippines and asking the government to be more transparent in disclosing such incidents.

Mattis was heading to Hawaii to attend a change-of-command ceremony for the US military's Pacific Command.

Harris has been nominated to become the next USA ambassador to South Korea.

U.S. Navy Adm. Philip Davidson will take over PACOM from Adm. Harry Harris during the change of command on Wednesday.

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