France and United Kingdom sending warships to defy Beijing in South China Sea

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Mattis vowed that the United States will push back against Beijing's aggression, amid growing concerns that the established USA presence and security assurances across the western Pacific region are being eroded by the Chinese regime's encroachments.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reiterated this stance on Saturday at the Singapore meeting, saying that the placement of weapons on South China Sea islands "is tied directly to military use for the objective of intimidation and coercion".

Senior Col. Zhao Xiaozhuo said a USA move to send two warships into China's "territorial waters" was a violation of law, and an "obvious provocation to China's national security and territorial integrity".

Although France is not a claimant in the South China Sea dispute, by conducting such exercises "on a regular basis with allies and friends" it is contributing to a rule-based order, according to Parly.

"Vietnam pursues a defensive and peaceful defense policy, does not take sides with one country against another country; does not use force for threaten the use of force", he said.

United States Defence Secretary Jim Mattis on Saturday accused China of intimidation and coercion in the South China Sea, Reuters reported.

Beijing has deployed a range of military hardware including anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles and electronic jammers across the South China Sea, where it has built islets and other maritime features into hardened military facilities, Mattis said.

On Saturday Mattis spoke at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual security summit in Singapore that each year attracts speakers who are the top policymakers in the defense and security community of countries across the western Pacific.

Mattis said the Pentagon will "hold the line" and support the diplomatic effort to secure the "complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula". He Lei said violation of China's sovereignty will not be allowed, and Senior Col. Zhou Bo of Beijing's defense ministry said the limit is 12 nautical miles from Chinese-controlled isles and reefs, including the disputed Spratly and Paracel Islands.

Mattis said there was little doubt about Beijing's intentions.

But he also said the USA welcomes cooperation with China "wherever possible", and announced that he has accepted Beijing's invitation to visit soon. China protested the maneuver.

Last week, the USA withdrew an invitation for Beijing's participation in naval exercises known as the Rim of the Pacific.

Beijing sent a relatively low-level delegation to this year's Shangri-La forum, which was dominated by the United States and its allies.

Without naming China, she suggested the warships will cross into "territorial waters" claimed by Beijing and envisioned a potential encounter with its military.

China accused the United States of trespassing after two Navy warships sailed near a reef claimed by Beijing on Sunday.

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. Japan, which has its own issues with China, is keen on helping defend Vietnam and the Philippines.

Several hours later, China's Lieutenant General He Le slammed "irresponsible comments from other countries".

The South China Sea has great strategic importance for the surrounding countries and worldwide powers, as it is one of the globe's major hotspots for trade; one-third of the world's shipping passes through its straits, carrying over $3 trillion of goods each year.

Gen Mattis said the Trump administration wanted a constructive relationship with China but would compete vigorously if necessary.