Mattis Warns Of "Consequences" If Beijing Continues Weaponizing The South China Sea

The United States and China appear to be headed for a military collision in the Southeast Asia region, as Washington warns of a more powerful military response to the increased weaponization of the heavily disputed islands in the South China Sea.

Speaking at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue, a civilian and military defense summit in Singapore, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis blasted Beijing Saturday morning for the militarization of artificial islands in the South China Sea and warned there could be “much larger consequences” in the near term.

IISS Shangri-La Dialogue 2018 – James N. Mattis delivers opening plenary speech. (Source: IISS) 

“There are consequences that will continue to come home to roost if China does not find a way to work more collaboratively with nations that have interests in the disputed region,” Mattis said, while he addressed ministers and high-ranking delegates from over 50 countries. During the entirety of the speech, Mattis did not define what exactly those consequences would be.

The Wall Street Journal said Mattis’ warning to Beijing, was in direct response to a question from an audience member, which he responded by saying, “despite China’s claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion,” adding that “China’s militarization of the Spratlys is also in direct contradiction to President Xi Jinping’s 2015 public assurances in the White House Rose Garden that they would not do this.”

IISS Shangri-La Dialogue 2018 – James N. Mattis delivers opening plenary speech. (Source: IISS) 

Beijing’s deployment of anti-ship cruise missiles, radar-jamming equipment, and strategic bombers to the disputed islands have dramatically increased geopolitical tensions around the region. Mattis said such action forced Washington to rethink its “cooperative stance” and disinvite China from the biennial Rim of the Pacific military exercise, expected to start in June.

Mattis acknowledged that Beijing’s penalty for militarization in the disputed islands has been relatively small, considering the vast amounts of global shipping lanes that pass by the islands.

The defense secretary added, “I believe there are much larger consequences in the future when nations lose the rapport of their neighbors when they believe that piling mountainous debts on their neighbors and somehow removing the freedom of political action is the way to engage with them.”

There is a reason to believe that Mattis is referring to China’s One Belt One Road Initiative where Beijing has used large amounts of debt to gain political leverage over developing countries for infrastructure projects.

“Eventually these things do not pay off, even if on the financial ledger sheet, or the power ledger sheet they appear to,” he said. “It’s a very shaky foundation when we believe that militarizing features are somehow going to endorse their standing in the world.”

James Mattis: US leadership and the challenges of Asia-Pacific security

The Trump administration recently replaced the term “Asia Pacific” with “a free and open Indo-Pacific.” It is a symbolic move that recognizing the growing importance of the Indian Ocean.

“Our Indo-Pacific strategy informs our relationship with China,” Mattis said. However, “China’s policy in the South China Sea stands in stark contrast to the openness of our strategy,” he continued.

Last Sunday, we reported that the U.S. Navy conducted its “freedom of navigation” patrols near the heavily disputed islands to demonstrate the right to sail through those international waters.

“We did not do freedom of navigation for America alone,” Mattis said.

“We do freedom of navigation, give freedom for all nations, large and small, that need to transit those waters for their own prosperity and they have every reason to do so,” he added.

Senior Col. Zhao Xiaozhou, of the People’s Liberation Army’s, hinted in a question to Mattis that the U.S. Navy’s recent freedom of navigation around the islands could be defined as militarization

“Mattis’ speech was negative,” Zhao said in an interview afterward.

“If China’s islands and reefs are continuously threatened by activities under the name of so-called freedom of navigation, China will eventually station troops on these reefs.”

China was the most spoken topic at the conference, even though President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are scheduled to meet and greet on June 12.

Mattis failed to explain what exactly the next round of consequences would be, however, he did offer a reminder that an emerging market crisis is brewing in China. As for the military collision between Beijing and Washington, well, it could be very possible that China’s debt bomb explodes first - then war.

And President Trump appears surprised by the actions of his "close friend" Xi...


curbjob directaction Sat, 06/02/2018 - 15:13 Permalink

There are indeed consequences;

China's MIC could start trying to out spend the rest of the world 6 x over and within a few decades the country could be saddled with $21 trillion in debt and a crumbling infrastructure. 

I'm sure there's a historical precedent somewhere  ?

In reply to by directaction

giovanni_f researchfix Sat, 06/02/2018 - 15:46 Permalink

The US looks stretched at this point. Its options are limited in all directions despite its constant huffing and puffing. Any country's counting on the US' ability to "protect" it against the inevitable Chinese domination is absolutely delusional.

The influence China exerts in the pacific will only increase making all countries there - no exception - economically dependent from it.

In reply to by researchfix

CashMcCall NidStyles Sun, 06/03/2018 - 01:58 Permalink

All sophisticated US weapon systems are satellite-guided. China can wipe out satellites and so can Russia in mere minutes. The US can't even launch a human in space. The military that controls the high ground wins. The US is just another decaying France. Loud with bullying threats en route to being gang tackled and beaten senseless. Trump the Draft Dodger is the perfect commander for a Toop of loud mouthed NEOCON RELIGIOUS RIGHT WARMONGERS. Time to draft the millennials from the BASEMENT. 

In reply to by NidStyles

popeye NidStyles Sat, 06/02/2018 - 18:33 Permalink

You missed the point. Trump is threatening virtually every nation either militarily or economically. And the economic threats are more pervasive, irritating everyone. And when you find you can only afford Made-in-USA goods, you may start to wish it were otherwise.


A couple of us were pondering briefly the other day - what is the US good at producing? Not armaments - over-priced and under deliver. Not cars - been rubbish for decades. Not software (Windows 10, anyone?). Fruit, wine, bourbon, over-priced tractors - thats my list, and every one can be substituted in a heartbeat. The only US objects in my home are a couple of Qualcom chips; not by design - the US just doesn't make anything I want or need.


In reply to by NidStyles

Iskiab popeye Sat, 06/02/2018 - 19:04 Permalink

Currency and software.  The US’ main advantage economically is being the reserve currency, militarily its software.

Windows sucks, but it’s still the staple with a back door access for American intelligence.  That’s a massive advantage in any military conflict.

Unfortunately being the reserve currency won’t last.  The US has pushed their advantage too hard.  Any banking company has to comply internationally to US law/demands if they do any business in the US.  G7 has let this slide in the past, but with a trade war brewing they’re all drafting laws to make it illegal to comply with US laws in their countries.  What if the trade war escalates and the US tries to not stop exchanges like they did to Iran?

Basicly with the US throwing their weight around getting off the US dollar as the reserve currency will become a national security issue.  

It’s time to learn Mandarin if you’re in banking.

In reply to by popeye

popeye Iskiab Sat, 06/02/2018 - 21:10 Permalink

The inability of US strategists to perceive the adverse impact of current policies is breathtaking. I conclude it is hubris, plain & simple.

The USD as reserve currency is already under threat. To provide strong incentives for countries to reduce trade deficits with the US, trade in other currencies, and develop alternative international payment platforms - all of which undermine that reserve currency status - is straight out moronic.

There is obviously a lot of quality amongst the US population, but there are too many who lack the sophistication or awareness or commonsense to realise where these policies are taking them as a nation. Then again, human history tells us it is probably inevitable. We seem to lack the ability to develop societal systems of decision-making that are effective, equitable and enduring.

In reply to by Iskiab

ItsAllBollocks popeye Sat, 06/02/2018 - 22:20 Permalink

How about America passes a new law says no politician can stay in office after the retirement age of everyone else. If at 65 you're too old to work then at 65 you're too old to run the bloody country. Am sick and tired of these warmongering old farts spitting their false teeth out every time they open their mouths and turning their hearing aids off when they don't want to hear anything but their own bullshit...

In reply to by popeye

CashMcCall popeye Sun, 06/03/2018 - 02:15 Permalink

Just remember in all dead empires of the past they always found an idiot to lead them into the abyss. Trump is perfect for the job. He is as perverted as Caligula, as out of touch as NERO, as bullying as Hitler, as arrogant as Mussolini and dumb as dirt. 

Meanwhile, the Petro Yuan gold back oil futures contract took 12% of the global oil market since March when it was launched. Further Hong Kong bought the London Metals Exchange, soon it will trade in Yuan. It is incredibly telling that Trump's tariffs are over Steel and Aluminum which are as useless a commodity as it gets. The US makes no structural steel and doesn't have a single blast furnace in operation. Of all the commodities that Trump could have picked, he picked the area of metals where the US has no leadership whatsoever. THE USA under Commander Heel Spurs the Draft Dodger... charging in from a position of weakness. In many ways, he shares the impulsiveness and hubris of Custer another yellow hair that couldn't do math. 

In reply to by popeye

Practical Cogitator Deep Snorkeler Sun, 06/03/2018 - 06:12 Permalink

"I believe there are much larger consequences in the future when nations lose the rapport of their neighbors when they believe that piling mountainous debts on their neighbors and somehow removing the freedom of political action is the way to engage with them." 


Goodness, hypocritical Uncle Sam has done enough of this to last an eternity - see John Perkins' "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man."

In reply to by Deep Snorkeler

Chupacabra-322 peopledontwanttruth Sat, 06/02/2018 - 17:44 Permalink

@ people,

Fucking crazy old man literally looks like The Emperor of The Dark Side from Return of the Jedi.  

We’re Governed by Adult Children & Psychopaths.


Empires Then And Now


By Paul Craig Roberts, April 3, 2012.


Great empires, such as the Roman and British, were extractive. The empires succeeded because the value of the resources and wealth extracted from conquered lands exceeded the value of conquest and governance. ... America’s wars are very expensive. ... and the American people have no benefits from it. No riches, no bread and circuses flow to Americans from Washington’s wars. So what is it all about? The answer is that Washington’s empire extracts resources from the American people for the benefit of the few powerful interest groups that rule America. The military-security complex, Wall Street, agribusiness and the Israel lobby use the government to extract resources from Americans to serve their profits and power. ... In this new empire, success at war no longer matters. The extraction takes place by being at war. Huge sums of American taxpayers’ money have flowed into the American armaments industries and huge amounts of power into the Department of Homeland Security. The American empire works by stripping Americans of wealth and liberty.


In reply to by peopledontwanttruth

HRClinton directaction Sat, 06/02/2018 - 15:46 Permalink

The buybull-thumping West has never seen a piece of global RE it didn't like, or claim as theirs. It's not just the Crusades. Ditto for Colonialism by a range of European monarchs and their complicit Clergy.

In fact, after the initial explorers, it's always the military and clergy, who proceed with colonization: the clergy acts as the velvet glove on a steel fist. All by design, since Romans created a national religion: Christianity.

Of course the same holds true for another absolutist religion: Islam. All absolutist / Abrahamic ME religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) are shit. Hopefully AI takes over and wipes them all out.

In reply to by directaction

LaugherNYC HRClinton Sat, 06/02/2018 - 16:51 Permalink

I suppose you are functionally illiterate.

”Freedom of navigation for all, not just the United States.”

That is keeping important commercial shipping routes open for all nations, and pushing back against Chinese hegemony and transparently illegal and preposterous expansionist claims to international waters.

If the world just capitulates, China will take everything it desires, which is, well, everything. That wont be good for Vlad, either.

If the US is clever, it will frame this as China v Russia. China will be moving on Indonesian oil fields next. It sees Russia as a speed bump, a bunch of corrupt bumpkins with nukes. Vlad better reprogram those hypersonic and aim them East, because Xi will be comin’ for your oil.

In reply to by HRClinton

HominyTwin LaugherNYC Sat, 06/02/2018 - 17:23 Permalink

Ummm, stupid. There's a small practical problem with your outlook: China's economy dwarfs all economies of all countries that have coasts on the South China Sea. It stands to reason, that most of the ships are sailing to and from...fucking China. But if you want to go take on China to make trade on the South China Sea safe for....ummm...China, go ahead. Take your cell phone. Text me for tactical advice. See you later, big talk.

In reply to by LaugherNYC

Scipio Africanuz directaction Sat, 06/02/2018 - 16:39 Permalink

True the South China Sea is closer to China than to mainland USA, but if you're old enough to remember when the US was a relatively rational actor, what Mattis is doing, is what US power was deployed for. US credibility can only be recovered when she reminds the world that yes, while no longer a hyperpower, she remains a great power and thus, there must be balancing vis a vis other great powers, for the protection of smaller powers, it's called GEOPOLITICS!

Now, what needs to happen, is for the great powers to jaw jaw about acceptable rules for the new reality of multipolarity. All sides have brandished their swords, now it's time to get down to brass tacks, to discuss spheres of influence, and the rules that'll go with maintaining respectful balancing of those spheres.

Diplomacy, of the pragmatic realism type, will need to be deployed by all sides, to ensure a cooperative world. We've entered territory that has not been observed in over a century so caution needs to be adopted by all poles.

I'm positive a new global security architecture can be designed, for the benefit of the world.  The stars beckon to mankind, and we can't respond until we cooperate as a relatively united species. Now is not the time to display fangs or talons, but instead, retract them.

I believe all sides will do the needful, which is to DIALOGUE!...

In reply to by directaction