Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan on Friday condemned China’s amassing of military defenses on artificial islands in the South China Sea, calling it “excessive.”
At a press conference in Singapore, Shanahan said that China’s installation of fortifications such as surface-to-air missiles on the artificial islands it has erected in the disputed sea is “overkill.”
The U.S. sailed two warships near islands in the disputed waters at the beginning of this month. The operation was part of U.S. efforts to maintain the waters as neutral territory, despite China’s claim to much of their area.
“China urges the United States to stop such provocative actions,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang at the time.
Shanahan plans to release the Pentagon’s new Indo-Pacific strategy Saturday at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.
“There’s not necessarily an expectation that they roll back the land reclamation – what they’ve done on the island-building is done,” Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver said in April. “We hope that they will not deploy additional military systems and in fact remove the military systems on these outposts.”
“It’s our intent to make sure that no one country can change international law or the status of the South China Sea,” Schriver added.
The military dispute follows trade tensions between the U.S. and China that the world’s two largest economies failed to resolve earlier this month amid acrimony and accusations of bad faith. The Trump administration has raised tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent, and levied a 25 percent tariff on another $50 billion worth of Chinese high-tech products.