05 June, 2018
His broadside at a security summit in Singapore drew a sharp rebuke from a Chinese general, who lashed out at "irresponsible comments" on the contested sea and insisted Bejing was simply defending its territory.
"Despite China's claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion", Mattis said at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue.
Parly said although France was not a claimant in the South China Sea disputes, by conducting such exercises "on a regular basis with allies and friends" it was contributing to a rule-based order.
He said Asia can only prosper under the rule of law, and stressed the importance of a rule-based global order.
China's military build-up in the South China Sea and its deployment of high-end weapons systems in the disputed waters is created to intimidate and coerce neighbours, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Saturday.
The United States is considering intensified naval patrols in the South China Sea to counter what it sees as China's militarization of the strategic waterway, a move that could further increase tensions with Beijing, officials say.
The archipelago, named after British whaling captain Richard Spratly, lies between Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei and parts of it are claimed by all.
In a veiled criticism on Sunday (June 3) of China's militarisation in the disputed waters, Ms Parly said at the Shangri-La Dialogue that the importance of these waterways to the economic security of states did not give them a right to bypass worldwide maritime law.
Gen Mattis had made his critical comments at a security summit in Singapore. The three-day security and defense conference has been held every year at the Shangri-La hotel since 2002.
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The U.S. response to China's weaponization of the islands continued on Sunday, as two U.S. warships sailed close to the Paracel Islands, which lie north of the Spratlys.
He added that the status of US troops in South Korea was not on the table when Trump and Kim meet, but left the door open to the issue being discussed down the road between Seoul and Washington if certain conditions were met. China protested the maneuver.
Six countries have competing claims in the sea, but China has backed its own with island-building and patrols.
But Chinese Lieutenant General He Lei issued a fiery response, telling the summit that "irresponsible comments from other nations can not be accepted".
The United States criticised the move and vowed to continue working to insure that the Indo-Pacific region remain "free and open".
Hua also questioned whether US Navy "freedom of navigation" operations were really about preserving the right for ships to sail through the region or an attempt to maintain hegemony.
Speaking at a separate briefing, defence ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said they had noted that the United States had recently been "turning a blind eye to the facts and hyping up" the militarisation of the South China Sea.
"If the USA 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".
Pentagon officials have long complained that China has not been candid enough about its rapid military build-up and using South China Sea islands to gather intelligence.