Clarion call: Make South China Sea 'a sea of peace' Vietnam exhorts

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China's deployment of defensive facilities on its islands in the South China Sea is legitimate and necessary, a senior Chinese military official said on Saturday.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reiterated this stance on Saturday at the Singapore meeting, saying that the placement of weapons on South China Sea islands "is tied directly to military use for the goal of intimidation and coercion".

"We believe nations should follow agreed rules but this is being ignored by some and what this does is it undermines peace and prosperity of all nations", he said.

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said China risked "larger consequences" in the long term with its increased military deployments in the South China Sea, as the Trump administration spars with Beijing on issues ranging from trade to security.

Jim Mattis said Beijing had recently deployed hardware including anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles and electronic jammers as well as landed bomber aircraft in contested areas.

"We do not see it as a militarisation by going through what has traditionally been an global water space", said Mattis of the U.S. ship movements through the South China Sea.

"We have to make it clear that nations need to play by the rules and that there are consequences for not doing so", he added, while speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue this week in Singapore.

Mattis said the Pentagon will "hold the line" and support the diplomatic effort to secure the "complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula".

Last month China said it had for the first time landed bombers on Woody Island in the Paracel Islands, prompting U.S. warnings that it was destabilising the region.

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Mattis said there was little doubt about Beijing's intentions.

The U.S., he said, remains committed to ensuring free and open transit in the region. China protested the move.

The previous week the US had withdrawn an invitation for Beijing to participate in the exercise known as Rim of the Pacific.

China has been accused of building artificial military islands in the disputed waterway in an apparent move to intimidate nations with rival claims to territory. Weaker than China militarily but keen on access to the sea's natural resources such as oil deposits, they resent China for placing military infrastructure on the tiny islands.

This year, the summit focused its discussions on the challenges to security in the Indo-Pacific region, the maritime region centred around Southeast Asia. Japan, which has its own issues with China, is keen on helping defend Vietnam and the Philippines.

"If you're reading the balance of power in the situation there are Australians in our military who would say that China's achieved its objectives", he told Sky News on Sunday morning.

But Representative Mac Thornberry, chairman of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, told reporters he believed that attitudes to China in the region are hardening.

Last month the USA withdrew an invitation for the Chinese navy to take part in a training excercise called Rim of the Pacific because the Pentagon said it had strong evidence that China had deployed weapons systems on disputed islands.

"The U.S. 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. of course we recognise any sustainable Indo-Pacific order has a role for China", he said.