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Jim Mattis Warns of Consequences If Beijing Keeps Militarizing the South China Sea 

U.S. strategy in region rooted in ‘principled realism’ and shared interests, defense secretary says.

SINGAPORE—  reports: The U.S. and China appear to be headed for a more confrontational relationship in Southeast Asia as Washington warns of a more aggressive response to the militarization of disputed islands in the South China Sea.

Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue, a regional security conference, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned there could be “much larger consequences” in the future from China’s moves to install weapons systems on islands in the sea. He didn’t specify what the consequences would be.

The warning, in response to a question from an audience member, came after a speech by Mr. Mattis in which he said “despite China’s claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion.”

He also called his decision to not invite China to the biennial Rim of the Pacific exercise, slated to begin later in June, “an initial response” to its increased militarization of the South China Sea.

His comments were the most assertive yet in response to what he has described as a ramp-up of Chinese military activity in the past month. This appeared to lay the groundwork for an increased U.S. military—or even economic—response.

China recently sent an H-6K heavy bomber to Woody Island, one of the areas under dispute. It also installed surface-to-air and antiship cruise missiles and communication-jamming equipment on some islands, U.S. officials have said. The U.S. responded last month by sending two Navy warships into the South China Sea to conduct a freedom of navigation operation … (read more)

Source: WSJ

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