While competition between the U.S. and China, the world's two largest economies, is bound to occur, it should not necessarily lead to conflict, said U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis on a recent trip to Singapore.
The United States seeks an “instructive, results-oriented relationship with China,” said Mr. Mattis. “We believe the United States can engage China diplomatically and economically to ensure our relationship is beneficial, not only to the United States and China, but also to the region and to the world.”
It is critical for the maintenance of an inclusive global community that all Asia-Pacific nations abide by international law. For example, the United States remains committed to protecting the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea, and the ability of countries to exercise those rights in the strategically important East and South China Seas.
“The scope and effect of China's construction activities in the South China Sea differ from those in other countries in several key ways,” said Mr. Mattis. “This includes the nature of its militarization, China's disregard for international law, its contempt for other nations' interests, and its efforts to dismiss non-adversarial resolution of issues.”
We will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and demonstrate resolve through operational presence in the South China Sea and beyond."
“We oppose countries militarizing artificial islands and enforcing excessive maritime claims unsupported by international law,” said Secretary Mattis. “We cannot and will not accept unilateral coercive changes to the status quo.”
“We will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and demonstrate resolve through operational presence in the South China Sea and beyond. Our operations throughout the region are an expression of our willingness to defend both our interests and the freedoms enshrined in international law,” said Mr. Mattis.
The United States seeks to cooperate with China as much as possible. “And where we disagree,” said Secretary Mattis, “we will seek to manage competition responsibly because we recognize how important U.S.-China relations are for the stability of the Asia-Pacific.”