James Mattis says U.S. committed to Asian-Pacific nations

June 3 (UPI) — Defense Secretary James Mattis reaffirmed U.S. commitment to the Asian-Pacific region Saturday “based on strategic interests and on shared values.”

Mattis, speaking at the Shangri-La defense summit in Singapore, said the United States would not accept China’s militarization of man-made islands in the resource-rich South China Sea because it undermines stability in the region. He also urged China to continue efforts to tamp down North Korea’s missile and nuclear activities.

“The United States will continue to adapt and continue to expand its ability to work with others to secure a peaceful, prosperous and free Asia, with respect for all nations upholding international law,” Mattis said to military leaders from at least 22 countries. “Because we recognize no nation is an island, isolated from others, we stand with our allies, partners and the international community to address pressing security challenges together.”

Mattis said he expects “economic and political friction” in U.S.-China relations but added the two countries must “cooperate for mutual benefit.”

“We seek instructive, results-oriented relationship with China. We believe the United States can engage China diplomatically and economically to ensure our relationship is beneficial, not only to the United States and China, but also to the region and to the world,” he said.

When asked what the United States plans to do to prevent China’s claims to the South China Sea, Mattis paraphrased a quote attributed to former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

“To quote a British observer of us from some years ago, “Bear with us. Once we’ve exhausted all possible alternatives, the Americans will do the right thing,” he said. “So, we will still be there. And we will be there with you.”

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