Mattis: US, Japan, South Korea must work together against China on South China Sea

Mattis: US, Japan, South Korea must work together against China on South China Sea
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Secretary of Defense James MattisJames Norman MattisNew Defense chief: Our 'priorities remain unchanged' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump targets Iran with new sanctions Trump urged to quickly fill Pentagon post amid Iran tensions MORE called for further cooperation among the U.S., Japan and South Korea in combating growing Chinese militarization of islands in the South China Sea.

Mattis on Friday met his Japanese and South Korean counterparts in Singapore while attending a regional security conference.

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“I think that all of us joining hands together, ASEAN allies and partners, and we affirm as we do so that no single nation can rewrite the international rule to the road and expect all nations large and small to respect those rules,” Mattis said. 

“The United States, alongside our allies and partners, will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows and our national interests demand. We will not be intimidated, and we will not stand down, for we cannot accept the PRC's militarization of the South China Sea or any coercion in this region,” he added.

U.S. officials are concerned by China’s building of military facilities on man-made islands in the South China Sea, which the U.S. views as violations of international law as a means of growing China’s sphere of influence. U.S. allies fear that China’s expansion poses a threat to their safety should a military conflict arise.

Washington and Beijing have both recently conducted military exercises in the region to which several countries lay territorial claims.