Mattis Says US Will Continue Operations in South China Sea

U.S. Navy: Chinese warships maneuvered in

But if deemed necessary, Esperon said, the Philippines will look into the option of fighting back if China will coerce or hurt Filipino troops and civilians based on the islands located in disputed areas. "If anyone gets the natural resources in the West Philippine Sea-South China Sea, he will go to war".

Sunday's operation was conducted just over a week after Beijing flew nuclear-capable bombers to a disputed island, drawing immediate criticism from the U.S. Then last week, the Pentagon pulled its invitation to China to join maritime exercises in the Pacific over Beijing's "continued militarization" of the South China Sea.

But the latest spat comes amid unusual tension between the USA and China on trade and as President Donald Trump eyes a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to discuss Pyongyang's nuclear program.

"This is merely set aside in the meantime in line with the efforts of government at promoting peace, stability and cordial relations among claimant countries in the region", said Esperon.

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy May 21, 2015.

"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.

Mattis said, the USA will maintain a "steady drum beat" in the South China Sea to "confront" China for actions that Washington deems to "be out of step with global law" and worldwide tribunal rulings.

He said US diplomats are "robustly engaged" on the issue, and that there is growing global concern. This comes at a time when the US President Trump seeks to seek Beijing cooperation on North Korea.

"Actually, China has been active in the South China Sea all this while".

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. Ousting China from the exercise could signal that joint activities, or the military relationship as a whole, are a reward.

In recent months, China has dramatically bolstered its military presence in the South China Sea.

According to media observers in the area, two battleships of the US Navy sailed near the islands that have been claimed by the People's Republic of China on Sunday. Many nations fear that Beijing will use the construction on the islands to extend its military reach and potentially try to restrict navigation in the South China Sea. "If there's multiple nation militarizing, and it isn't exclusively the islands, if big navies are crusing by means of the world, is that not militarization?" he mentioned.

The US secretary of defense is expected to preside over the change of guard in the US Pacific Command.

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