US praises PM Modi's call for freedom of navigation for peace

The response came after U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis touched upon the Taiwan issue in his speech at a plenary session of the 16th Shangri-La Dialogue which opened here on Friday evening.

Pentagon chief Jim Mattis on Saturday criticized China's actions in the South China Sea, saying Beijing showed "contempt" for other nations' interests.

His Japanese counterpart Tomomi Inada levelled similar criticism against China in her 30-minute speech.

Sylvie Goulard, France's armed forces minister, noted that North Korea is the only country to have conducted nuclear tests in the 21st century, including two past year alone.

"India has sought to improve its defence partnerships with the United States, and several regional powers, based on shared concern about the rise of China", it said.

"Regarding the South China Sea, the final award was rendered in the arbitration between the Philippines and China in July 2016", Inada said, referring to decision delivered by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, which had ruled in Manila's favour.

About security challenges from the self-claimed Islamic State (IS), the U.S. side remains committed to leading the Defeat ISIS Coalition effort, and partnering with countries in the region, including Malaysia and Indonesia, to improve information sharing.

He said the region wants to see China take a more responsible leadership role, adding that Beijing could play a key role in reining in the Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s nuclear and missile programmes.

Mattis, speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue defense meeting, said the Trump administration is encouraged by China's "renewed commitment" to pressuring North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons program but added that the United States will not accept China's military buildup in the South China Sea.

In his opening speech to national defence chiefs, worldwide security experts from 40 countries, including Vietnam, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said there is concern in the region that the United States withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris climate accord would lead to Washington retreating from global leadership. "Our ships and aircraft will operate in the South China Sea, as they have for decades, consistent with the rights of freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight".

In an apparent reference to China, he also opposed countries militarizing artificial islands and enforcing excessive maritime claims unsupported by global law.

They called on all claimants to "halt land reclamation activities, demilitarise disputed features and refrain from provocative actions that could escalate tensions".

India has an active territorial dispute with China, and is increasingly anxious out China's build-up of military forces and infrastructure along the disputed Sino-Indian border, it said.

Senior Colonel Zhao Xiaozhuo, another delegate, said the Chinese side felt unfairly singled out for criticism.

  • Joanne Flowers