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Tensions rise as US warns China on South China Sea

03 June 2018

China's Defense Ministry on Thursday said it hoped for continued exchanges with the American military despite being disinvited from a major USA -sponsored naval exercise this summer.

During a briefing on Thursday, Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, told reporters that the US has a long and successful history of capturing small islands in the Pacific.

Declining to rate America's ability to destroy the islands on a scale from 1 to 10, McKenzie said that "the United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific taking down small islands". According to Beijing, the operation "seriously violated China's sovereignty".

In defiance of China's tightening grip on the region, the USA military has conducted multiple naval and aerial "freedom of navigation" missions close to the islands, asserting its belief that the area-in which Beijing's territorial claims overlap with five of its neighbors-constitutes global waters.

"The United States military presence in the South China Sea is greater than that of China and other countries that surround the seas combined", Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular briefing.

The Chinese government has reacted furiously to the recent United States statements, CNN reported.

"Vietnam respects nations' rights to freedom of navigation and overflight in the East Sea in accordance with worldwide laws, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea", foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said in a statement.

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The U.S. defense secretary spoke while on his way to Singapore for the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, a gathering of Asian defense officials and other leaders.

But McKenzie's comments come amid an escalating standoff in the controversial waters.

"Aside from deploying defensive weapons on the Spratly Islands, China should build a powerful deterrence system, including an aerial base and a roving naval force and base", the paper said.

A Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman rejected Mattis' accusations Thursday but said ties between Beijing and Washington were "stable on the whole" despite the "hyped-up" accusations.

No country has the right to "make irresponsible remarks" about China's building of necessary defence facilities on its own territory, Senior Colonel Ren said at a monthly news briefing.

"The two sides have been maintaining communication and coordination on the details", he said.

Tensions rise as US warns China on South China Sea