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In this April 26, 2018, file photo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis listens to a question during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Cayetano's speech got here as america Navy sailed two warships within 12 nautical miles of China's synthetic islands within the Paracels, as a part of their common freedom of navigation workouts within the contested waters.

Much to the displeasure of Beijing, which called the action a serious infringement of Chinese sovereignty, the guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins and the cruiser USS Antietam sailed within 12 miles of four of the Paracel Islands to demonstrate the "freedom of navigation" and enforce the right of free passage in global waters.

Mattis said USA ships are maintaining a "steady drumbeat" of naval operations and will confront "what we believe is out of step with global law".

The United States will continue to conduct military exercises in the South China Sea despite rising tensions with Beijing, US Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters.

"We're going out of our way to cooperate with the Pacific nations".

The move prompted immediate criticism from the USA, which last week pulled its invitation to China to join maritime exercises in the because of Beijing's "continued militarisation" of the South China Sea.

Mattis added that the United States is "going to confront what it believes is out of step with global law, out of step with worldwide tribunals that have spoken on the issue".

They would be China's signals to warn the U.S.

China should also not attempt to remove the BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin [Second Thomas] Shoal, where the government grounded it in 1999 to mark Philippine territory in the Spratly archipelago, he added.

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The massive military event, known as RIMPAC, is described by the US Navy as the world's largest global maritime warfare exercise and involves more than 20 countries from across the world.

According to the USA, the freedom of navigation missions are meant to underscore the rights of the US and others to operate in global waters and airspace and to block efforts by any nation to unlawfully extend their boundaries or territorial rights.

He said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had been raising China's militarization and other WPS concerns at the Bilateral Consultative Mechanism (BCM) between China and the Philippines.

However, China has continued to ignore a 2016 Hague agreement and claims the South China Sea in its entirety, deploying missile systems on Fiery Cross Reef, Mischief Reef and Subi Reef.

"This is merely set aside in the meantime, in line with the efforts of government at promoting peace, stability, and cordial relations among claimant countries in the region", Esperon said in a statement.

Zhou, who is also director of the Centre for Security Cooperation at the Office for International Military Cooperation under China's defence ministry, would take part in a panel session on Saturday on managing competition in regional security, the source said. "We've very open about them, and report them", he said.

U.S. Navy Adm. Philip Davidson will take over PACOM from Adm. Harry Harris during the change of command on Wednesday.

He will have strong words for China when he travels to Singapore for the Shangri-la dialogue, a security forum, later this week.

The current head, Admiral Harry Harris, has been nominated to be the new ambassador to South Korea.