US defense secretary heads to Asia to draw a contrast with assertive China

By AFP  &nbspJanuary 22, 2018 | 08:35 am GMT+7 U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis walks from a meeting with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 9, 2018. Photo by Reuters/Joshua Roberts In Vietnam, Jim Mattis and his counterparts are set to discuss freedom of movement in the South China Sea. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Sunday began a one-week trip to Asia, hoping to strengthen defense cooperation with Indonesia and Vietnam as regional Chinese military power looms ever larger. “We share the Pacific – it’s an ocean named for peace – we would like to see it remain peaceful, so all the nations that use it and live here are prosperous,” Mattis told reporters accompanying him on a military plane headed to the region. In Jakarta, where he is to arrive Monday evening, Mattis is to meet on Tuesday with President Joko Widodo and Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu for talks on maritime cooperation. The vast Indonesian archipelago reaches from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific. In Vietnam, Mattis and his counterparts are set to discuss freedom of movement in the South China Sea, a region over which Beijing has extended its dominance in recent years, militarizing several small, disputed islands. The waters is known as the East Sea in Vietnam. Washington hopes to draw a contrast between its own approach and those of China – seen as aggressively modernizing its military capacities – and Russia, which has annexed parts of Georgia and Ukraine. “The point I… [Read full story]

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