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Chinese general hits back at Mattis over S. China Sea deployment

Soldiers of China's People's Liberation Army navy patrol near a sign in the Spratly Islands. Photo: Reuters

A leading Chinese general has lashed out at attacks on China by US Defense Secretary James Mattis over its deployment in the South China Sea as “irresponsible” and “not to be internationally respected”.

“Any irresponsible comments from other countries cannot be accepted,” said Lieutenant General He Lei, Vice President of the Academy of Military Sciences of the People’s Liberation Army of China who is attending the ongoing  17th Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore as the head of the Chinese delegation.

The Chinese general was apparently fighting back against US Defense Secretary Mattis who slammed China hours earlier at the same security forum for intimidating and coercing its neighbors in the region by what he called militarization of the islands under its control in the South China Seal.

He stressed China’s deployment was of a national defense nature, “ they are for the purpose of avoiding being invaded by others, and as long as it is on your own territory, you can deploy the army and you can deploy weapons”.

China’s deployment in the region was in strict conformity with international laws, said He, apparently in a bid to play down or reject accusations against China’s latest deployment of anti-ship missiles, sur-to-air missiles, electric jammers and other equipment in the areas in question.

The Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual event officially known as the Asia Security Summit, was launched in the year 2002 by the British think tank International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Singaporean government.

The forum has become in recent years a venue of security cooperation among participating countries as well as a podium to manifest different visions and policy confrontations over hot spots in the region, particularly the South China Sea.

At the ongoing forum in Singapore, Mattis said China’s placement of weapons on manmade islands in the South China Sea was designed to intimidate and coerce others in the region, and the recent US move to disinvite the Chinese navy from a multi-national naval exercise was an “initial response” to the militarization of the islands.

The naval exercise was codenamed Rim of the Pacific, China participated in the year 2014 and 2016 but complained its navy was shunned from the core of the exercise, particularly the combat  readiness, telecommunications and other war-related drills.

However, Mattis said in a quick pivot that the US welcomes any cooperation with China and said he had accepted Beijing’s invitation for a visit soon.

Chinese general He also fell short of mentioning the names of the United States or Mr. Mattis, but insisted China stood for comprehensive and sustained security arrangements in the South China Sea and the region as a whole.

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