Published: Sun, October 21, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Mattis To Meet With Chinese Counterpart As Trade War Intensifies

Mattis To Meet With Chinese Counterpart As Trade War Intensifies

The Pentagon's top policy official for Asia and the Pacific, Randall G. Schriver, told reporters on Wednesday that the Chinese had requested the Singapore meeting with Mattis.

According to the Chinese official, promoting cooperation for win-win development is the only choice for a lasting relationship between Beijing and Washington, enhancing mutual trust is the best cohesive force for strengthening the exchanges of the two armies, and respect and toleration are the rightful means of addressing differences and problems.

Mattis, Schriver said, will renew to Wei U.S. positions on freedom of navigation in global waters, amid Chinese claims of "irrefutable" sovereignty in the South China Sea. "It is an important way for (Chinese President) Xi Jinping to signal to his domestic population that he has a handle of the US-China relationship, that it's not spiraling out of control".

The Pentagon chief met Thursday with his Chinese counterpart, General Wei Fenghe, on the sidelines of the gathering as they sought to normalise military relations that have dramatically soured over trade and sanctions tensions.

"Our message will be no single country can change worldwide law, global norms", he said.

At Friday's meeting, Mattis reiterated Washington's concern "about the militarization of the features in the South China Sea".

Data shows that defence expenditure in the Asia-Pacific is projected to rise by 23 per cent to more than US$530 billion (S$730 billion) in 2020.

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Most countries view the Chinese government's vast territorial claims in the sea as in direct violation of worldwide law, but this has not stopped Beijing from building up and weaponizing islets and reefs.

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 United States to sign up to the same code of conduct.

The United States pass through regular military vessels in the south China sea to remind Beijing of the principles of freedom of navigation and to mark their support for some of the allied countries members of Asean.

China claims nearly the entire South China Sea while Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei claim parts of the potentially energy-rich maritime territory.

Front and centre is China's military build-up in the South China Sea and its sweeping claims of sovereignty across the economically vital waters. "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 global commerce and other peaceful uses of the sea", the DFA said.

"The militaries from both sides need to work hard together to increase strategic communication, manage security risks, expand fields of cooperation, and push forward the healthy and stable development of military-to-military relations".

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