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Defense Secretary James Mattis Just Challenged China’s Moves in South China Sea

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In what increasingly appears to be a deliberate strategy of mixed messaging, United States Defense Secretary James Mattis openly challenged China’s position in the contested South China Sea and offered new strategic reassurance to America’s erstwhile regional strategic allies.

“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,” said Mattis during his highly anticipated speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore over the weekend.

Given the diminished role of the US State Department, which is grappling with a massive 30% budget cut under US president Donald Trump’s proposed budget, Mattis is increasingly seen as the primary actor shaping American defense and foreign policy in Asia.

Since assuming the Pentagon’s leadership, Mattis has bid to reassure key allies in Western Europe and Northeast Asia about the Trump administration’s commitment to existing alliances. His speech in Singapore was part of the Pentagon’s latest effort to push back against lingering fears of American disengagement from the region.

The summit, which brought together 23 defense ministers and hundreds of security experts from........

© The National Interest