Mattis and his Chinese counterpart to meet following canceled talks

Mattis and his Chinese counterpart to meet following canceled talks

Schriver said the discussions covered numerous issues but focused especially on the disputed South China Sea, where Chinese military activity is viewed by Washington as irresponsible and Beijing complains of an inappropriate USA military presence. In the South China Sea, tensions have been running high as the U.S. challenges China through freedom-of-navigation operations, bomber overflights, and joint drills with regional partners - all aimed to counter China's expansive but discredited territorial claims.

Mattis has made eight trips to what he calls the Indo-Pacific region as Pentagon chief, and a primary mission has been to encourage countries to stand up to China's vast claims of sovereignty in the strategically vital South China Sea.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis and China's Defense Minister Wei Fenghe are set to meet this week after talks between the two were canceled at the end of last month.

The city of Zhanjiang in southern China is home to the South Sea Fleet of the People's Liberation Army.

ASEAN defence ministers will also be meeting with defence chiefs from major countries outside the region, including the US, China, India and Russian Federation, in a series of meetings through Saturday.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis was also there.

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Relations between China and the USA have also been damaged by the ongoing trade war, security concerns and Donald Trump's accusations of Chinese meddling in the American midterm elections.

Hoang Thi Ha, a political analyst with the Iseas Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, said next week's exercises were aimed at "demonstrating that China and Asean are managing well their maritime problems".

A week later, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visit China and met with his counterpart, Wang Yi. The resource-rich sea, which is also enormously important for trade in and out of Asia, is contested by numerous southeast Asian nations, which each claim unique and frequently overlapping rights to reefs, islets and fishing waters within the area.

That framework seeks to advance a 2002 Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which has mostly been ignored by claimant states, particularly China, which has built seven islands in disputed waters, three of them equipped with runways, surface-to-air missiles and radars.

Schriver said making military-to-military ties with China less brittle would be crucial to helping reduce the chances of a devastating conflict. Beijing has increased its presence in recent years by building artificial islands that host the military bases. He said USA officials took this as a sign that the Chinese are interested in stabilizing the military relationship.

Gregory Poling, an Asia expert and fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think-tank, said most countries in the region see Mattis as "a steady hand on the tiller".

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