United States Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis said at the at Plenary Session of the 2018 Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore said that his country will cooperate with China whenever possible but will be competing vigorously where they must.
“To be clear, we do not ask any country to choose between the United States and China, because a friend does not demand you choose among them. China should and does have a voice in shaping the international system, and all of China’s neighbors have a voice in shaping China’s role,” he explained.
“If the US 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,” Mattis said.
The US defense chief said they are ready to support China’s choices if they promote long-term peace and prosperity for the dynamic Indo-Pacific region.
However, he said “China’s policy in the South China Sea stands in stark contrast to the openness of our strategy.”
“It promotes – what our strategy promotes, it calls into question China’s broader goals. China’s militarization of artificial features in the South China Sea includes the deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, electronic jammers, and more recently, the landing of bomber aircraft at Woody Island,” 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. China’s militarization of the Spratlys is also in direct contradiction to President Xi’s 2015 public assurances in the White House Rose Garden that they would not do this,” he added.
With these, Mattis said, the US disinvited the Chinese navy from the upcoming 2018 Rim of the Pacific Exercise as initial response.
“China’s behavior is inconsistent with the principals and the purposes of the RIMPAC exercise, the world’s largest Naval exercise, and exercise in which transparency and cooperation are hallmarks,” he said.