U.S. plans 'steady drumbeat' in South China Sea, Mattis says

U.S. Navy: Chinese warships maneuvered in

U.S. Navy: Chinese warships maneuvered in "unprofessional" manner

The United States has always been critical of China's sweeping sovereignty claims in the South China Sea, disputed by several neighboring governments.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis speaks to reporters about North Korea at the Pentagon, May 25, 2018.

The Pentagon sent two US warships through the waters of the South China Sea over the weekend, a public demonstration of the right of free passage in global waters and, in the process, sending China a message.

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 U.S. actions today after sending its own warships to warn away the Americans.

Mattis said USA ships are maintaining a "steady drumbeat" of naval operations and will confront "what we believe is out of step with global law". "We are not saying we are going to war, but if they oppress us that may force our hand, because we will not allow ourselves to be oppressed", Esperon said, quoted in Agence France-Press.

China has however become increasingly aggressive in asserting sovereignty over the area, most recently landing H-6K nuclear-capable bombers to its artificial islands as part of a military drill training for a "battle for the South China Sea".

"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 worldwide law", Mattis said.

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

He said that although they are covered less extensively, China's coast guard and naval patrols, announced last week, represent a preemptive move to tell counter-claimants "don't even think about it".

"China also assured us with our good relationship that we are not their enemy", he said.

He said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had been raising China's militarization and other WPS concerns at the Bilateral Consultative Mechanism (BCM) between China and the Philippines. "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.

However, China has continued to ignore a 2016 Hague agreement and claims the South China Sea in its entirety, deploying missile systems on Fiery Cross Reef, Mischief Reef and Subi Reef.

Critics say Duterte's approach has emboldened China, which has been increasingly assertive in the potentially oil- and gas-rich waterway that's also claimed entirely or in part by Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.

He added that the area was regarded as global waters and many countries wanted to exercise their freedom of navigation.

He is stopping in Hawaii to mark a change in leadership at US Pacific Command.

The government will use the worldwide tribunal ruling invalidating China's claim over the entire South China Sea "at the proper time", National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said.

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