United States Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that US will continue freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) in West Philippine Sea/South China Sea and will maintain transparent military activities in the Pacific.
“On the FONOPs, they’re freedom of navigation operations. And you’ll notice there’s only one country that seems to take active steps to rebuff them or state their resentment of them,” Mattis said on May 29 before embarking on his trip to US Pacific Command (PACOM) area-of-operations.
“But it’s international waters, and a lot of nations want to see freedom of navigation,” he added. “So we’ll continue that.”
He also noted that Chinese President Xi Jinping promised not to militarize the Spratly Islands but did the opposite of the promise.
“There had been a promise in 2015 by the – President Xi, in the Rose Garden – the White House meeting where he stated they would not be militarizing the Spratly Islands. We have seen – the last month, they have done exactly that, moving weaponry in that was never there before,” Mattis said.
“We are going out of our way to cooperate with Pacific nations. That’s the way we do business in the world. But we are also going to confront what we believe is out of step with international law, out of step with international tribunals that have spoken on the issue, and part of this is we maintain a very transparent military activity out in the Pacific,” he explained.
He said US military movements in the Pacific are not hidden from anyone. “We announce it through public affairs statements,” he said.
“The nations, our partners and our allied nations, are very open about it. So, when they do things that are opaque to the rest of us, then we cannot cooperate in areas that we would otherwise cooperate in,” he added.