U.S. sees relations with China stabilising

Frederick Owens
October 21, 2018

Mattis "repeated our desire for a durable relationship that is a stabilising force in the overall relationship", Randall Schriver, the Pentagon's assistant secretary of defence for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, told reporters after the almost 90-minute meeting on the sidelines of a security summit in Singapore.

"I think the fact that he's meeting with Minister Wei is some evidence that the Chinese are interested in keeping things normal and stable, as are we", said Schriver, assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs.

Mattis, Schriver said, will renew to Wei U.S. positions on freedom of navigation in worldwide waters, amid Chinese claims of "irrefutable" sovereignty in the South China Sea. "Believing that the proper management of disputes in the South China Sea is vital in safeguarding regional peace and stability, both sides reaffirmed their commitment to the principles of freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea, freedom of worldwide commerce and other peaceful uses of the sea", the DFA said. After the meeting, Pompeo said that China and the United States are locked in a "fundamental disagreement" regarding a wide range of issues, most crucial of which is each countries' stance over sanctions on North Korea.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis was also there.

Defence ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have agreed a set of guidelines for warplanes flying over the disputed South China Sea, and will invite China and the U.S. to sign up to the same code of conduct. Since then, however, a series of irritants have shaken military-to-military ties.

China has been infuriated by the United States putting sanctions on China's military for buying weapons from Russian Federation, and by what Beijing sees as stepped-up US support for self-ruled Taiwan, claimed by China as its sacred territory.

The U.S. side is devoted to promoting the relations between the U.S. and Chinese militaries, and hopes to further enhance exchanges between the two militaries at all levels, and take good advantage of the mutual trust and cooperation mechanism, so as to push the relations between the two militaries ahead on a right track.

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China did not immediately comment to US media outlets after the meeting.

But tensions between the United States and China have already extended well beyond naval maneuvers and even the bitter trade war.

Four of the 10 ASEAN countries - Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam also claim sovereignty over some areas of the south China sea, staging area vital to world trade and is known to be rich in hydrocarbons.

"We always respect and safeguard every country's freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea in accordance with global laws", spokesman Lu Kang said.

"In some instances, other countries may not have the confidence given China's strength to always speak up, but (Mattis) wanted to let Minister Wei know that he hears about it a great deal from other countries", Schriver said.

Stressing the increasing development of the ASEAN-China defence cooperation, he vowed to build a closer ASEAN-China community for a common future.

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