Mattis presses Beijing over N. Korea, South China Sea

Faith Castro
June 7, 2017

US Defence Secretary James Mattis shares a light moment with Gen Udomdej Sitabutr, Thailand's deputy defence minister, before their talks at the 2017 International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on Saturday.

President Donald Trump - who frequently denounced China on the campaign trail - has turned to Beijing to help rein in North Korea's weapons programme, prompting concerns among Asian allies that America might go easy on the South China Sea issue.

The UN Security Council on Friday unanimously adopted a US-drafted resolution imposing new targeted sanctions on a handful of North Korean officials and entities, in response to a series of ballistic missile tests this year that are banned under UN resolutions.

His sharp words for both countries suggest he believes China will, out of self-interest, exert leverage on North Korea to halt its nuclear and missile programs even as Washington pushes Beijing to change course in the South China Sea.

North Korea on Sunday slammed the latest round of United Nations sanctions as "mean" and vowed to press ahead with its missile and nuclear weapons programs.

Mattis' views on North Korea and China were backed by other participants in the forum.

Speaking at an global security conference in Singapore, Mattis noted the Pentagon conducted what it called a successful test this week of its missile defence system, which is being developed mainly with North Korea in mind.

"There is a lot more between (China) and the United States than just two issues".

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula intensified in early 2016 when North Korea conducted a nuclear test and after that launched a ballistic missile carrying a satellite.

He again proposed a simultaneous freeze of North Korea's nuclear and missile programs and South Korea and the United States' joint military exercises.

More news: One Love Manchester raises over £2 MILLION!

More specifically, Mattis sought to ease concerns for allies in the Asia-Pacific, saying the region was a priority and the primary effort was alliance building.

The annual defense summit brings together ministers and delegates from over 50 countries to discuss security challenges and opportunities.

Chinese U.N. Ambassador Liu Jieyi said that the resolution reiterated the importance of maintaining peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and northeast Asia.

This is a "reaffirmation of the US' longstanding interest in and commitment to the region", said Singapore's Defence Ministry.

"We call on North Korea to refrain from provocative, destabilizing actions and rhetoric, and to make the strategic choice to fulfill its worldwide obligations and commitments and return to serious talks", State Department spokeswoman Anna Richey-Allen told Yonhap News Agency.

He says conflict between the USA and China is not inevitable even if there is competition between the nations.

Another senior military official from China said Mattis should also have mentioned agreements with Beijing, though the defense secretary later actually emphasized that the US would stand by the "One China" principle, reports said.

The US today praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi's emphasis on having freedom of navigation and adhering to the worldwide norms for peace and economic growth, amidst China flexing its muscles in the disputed South China Sea.

"We can not and will not accept unilateral, coercive changes to the status quo" in the South China Sea, he said.

Other reports by LeisureTravelAid

Discuss This Article