While Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross visits Beijing for trade negotiations, Defense Secretary James Mattis on Saturday warned China against "intimidating neighbors" in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.
"China's policy in the South China Sea stands in stark contrast to the openness our strategy promises; it calls into question China's broader goals," Mattis said at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual security summit in Singapore. "The U.S. will continue to pursue a constructive, results-oriented relationship with China, cooperating when possible and competing vigorously where we must."
"Of course, we recognize any sustainable Indo-Pacific order has a role for China," he continued, but "[m]ake no mistake: America is in the Indo-Pacific to stay. This is our priority theater."
A Chinese military official labeled Mattis' remarks "irresponsible."