China rejects 'ridiculous' US accusation of S.China Sea militarization

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis speaks to reporters aboard a US military plane

"When they (Chinese) do things that are opaque to the rest of us, then we can not cooperate in areas that we would otherwise cooperate in", Mattis said. "And we have been reporting to you and the public", he added.

Cayetano said it was during the Aquino administration when the Philippines lost control of Scarborough Shoal, following a "misfire" which led to the pull out of ships from the region.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said his nation could go to war if its soldiers were hurt in the disputed South China Sea, a top aide said on Wednesday after allegations emerged that Beijing had harassed Manila's troops in the area.

On the weekend, China's military announced that two of its warships had challenged two United States Navy vessels that sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands, one of the disputed features of the South China Sea.

In order for the country to exercise its sovereignty and jurisdiction over Philippine territorial waters, Esperon said the country will take full advantage of the tribunal ruling "at the proper time".

Cayetano said China has assured that the deployment of missiles in three reefs claimed by the Philippines as well as the testing and landing of Chinese bombers in Woody Island in the Paracels is "purely for defensive goal and not directed against the Philippines".

Mattis's remarks came after Beijing voiced "strong dissatisfaction" Sunday after two United States warships sailed by an island in the disputed Paracel Island chain.

China has voiced "strong dissatisfaction" after two USA naval warships passed within 12 nautical miles of Chinese-claimed islands in while conducting naval manoeuvring exercises, adding to simmering tensions in the strategic waterway.

He added that the area was regarded as global waters and many countries wanted to exercise their freedom of navigation.

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Mattis also said the USA would continue to "confront what we believe is out of step with worldwide law, out of step with global tribunals that have spoken on the issue".

Sunday's operation was conducted just over a week after Beijing flew nuclear-capable bombers to a disputed island, drawing immediate criticism from the US.

"(The sailings) contravened Chinese and relevant worldwide law, seriously infringed upon Chinese sovereignty (and) harmed strategic mutual trust between the two militaries", he said.

Citing an unnamed USA intelligence source, news channel CNBC said that China had in April installed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on three of its outposts in the South China Sea.

"Our diplomats are robustly engaged on this", Mattis said.

As China claims lays claim to the entire region, which over 60 percent of China's trade passes through, Beijing says it is within China's right to militarize the region.

Mattis is stopping in Hawaii on his way to the Singapore meeting so that he can attend the ceremony marking the change in leadership at U.S. Pacific Command.

Harris has been nominated to become the next USA ambassador to South Korea.

National security and defence experts have said that the military operations being conducted by the Pentagon are mainly symbolic and that they have no impact on how China will behave going forward.

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