China is deploying missiles in the disputed South China Sea to intimidate and coerce its neighbours, US Defence Secretary James Mattis says.
The Global Times, a state-backed Chinese tabloid that does not reflect official policy, said in an editorial on Thursday that China must prepare to forcefully respond to any "extreme" USA interference in the South China Sea.
He Lei, the head of the Chinese delegation to the dialogue, said the islands were Chinese territory and it was "a sovereign and legal right for China to place our army and military weapons there".
Many nations fear that Beijing will use the construction on the islands to extend its military reach and potentially try to restrict navigation in the South China Sea.
"The reason that they are here and the reason that we are visiting is to send the strongest of signals", he said, addressing Royal Navy sailors.
Mattis acknowledged that China's militarisation of islands was a reality but warned of further consequences. He added that he was open to cooperation with China "wherever possible".
"We do not see it as a militarisation by going through what has traditionally been an worldwide water space", said Mr Mattis of the United States ship movements through the South China Sea.
The US secretary criticized China for deploying military equipment on artificial islands in the South China Sea.
His comments come in response to the increasingly fraught security situation in the Asian-Pacific, including the North Korea nuclear crisis and China's claims to the South China Sea.
"We are aware China will face an array of challenges and opportunities in coming years, we are prepared to support China's choices if they promote long-term peace and prosperity for all in this dynamic region", Mattis said.
At the same time, Ng called out China for intensifying its military buildup on reclaimed reefs in the South China Sea.
"They don't know what's coming next", Mr. Friedberg said. "There's not much people, even at Mattis's levels, can do about it". The U.S. has also been working to ease tensions as it seeks China's help enforcing sanctions on North Korea until leader Kim Jong Un agrees to denuclearize.
"Our objective remains the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula".
Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen criticized both the USA and China for taking "unilateral actions", lumping the two rivals together as nations challenging the current global order.
The president's tweet comes after the White House announced the official USA delegation to China for a series of upcoming meetings slated to be held next week, following talks held in Beijing and Washington last month.
The talks focus on adding details to China's May 19 promise to narrow its politically volatile surplus in trade in goods with the United States, which reached a record $375.2 billion previous year.
Mr Trump renewed his threat to hike tariffs on Chinese goods, just days before his commerce secretary arrived in Beijing on Saturday for trade talks. And he said he doesn't believe that China's actions will pay off.