Published: Thu, May 31, 2018
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

Philippines says ready for war if troops harmed in S. China Sea

Philippines says ready for war if troops harmed in S. China Sea

Critics and left-wing groups have slammed Duterte for not publicly raising alarm over recent Chinese actions, including the reported installation of missile defense systems on its newly constructed islands, and for not demanding immediate Chinese compliance with a 2016 arbitration ruling that invalidated Beijing's expansive claims in the South China Sea and upheld the Philippines' sovereign rights to exploit resources in vast stretches of waters off its western coast.

Mattis says Beijing hasn't abided by its promise not to put weapons on the Spratly Islands.

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". "That's the way we do business in the world, but we're also going to confront what we believe is out of step with global law, out of step with worldwide tribunals that have spoken on the issue", he said.

His comments came after the two U.S. warships sailed close to the Paracel Islands, north of the Spratlys, promoting an angry response from China, which claims to have sent ships and aircraft to counter the U.S. Navy's presence in the area.

However, Mattis's statements, taken as an indirect response to Beijing, argues that Beijing is the one who is in violation of global law, as United Nations tribunals have on repeated occasions ruled against territorial claims of what China calls the cow's tongue or the nine-dash line, a presumptuous assertion that the entire South China Sea is Chinese territory.

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

The current head, Admiral Harry Harris, has been nominated to be the new ambassador to South Korea.

Mattis said the US will continue those operations.

Earlier this month, China's air force landed bombers on disputed islands and reefs in the South China Sea as part of a training exercise in the region.

China has downplayed the deployment of missile systems stating that it "targets no one".

As Mattis states, there's "only one country" that seems to be resentful of, and emphasize its opposition to, the maintenance of free and open trade lanes.

The operation, known as "freedom of navigation", was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing's efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, where Chinese, Japanese and some Southeast Asian navies operate.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, despite overlapping claims with other countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

"We are going out of our way to cooperate with Pacific nations, that's the way we do business in the world", he said.

In recent years, the USA had sought to stabilize military relations with China, but the militarization of the islands has been a persistent point of conflict. -China relations are expected to be a major focus of the Shangri-La Dialogue.

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