China Praises Mattis For ‘Dispersing The Clouds Of War’ In The South China Sea

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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Chinese officials have mixed feelings about Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis’s trip to Asia.

Beijing is displeased that the U.S. is pushing ahead with plans for the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile shield on South Korean soil and standing by the previous administration’s decision that the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea are covered by the U.S.-Japanese security agreement. China also took offense to Mattis’s claim that China has “shredded the trust of nations in the region.”

China accused Mattis of ruffling “diplomatic feathers” and stirring regional instability.

China did, however, find satisfaction in Mattis’s stance on the heated territorial disputes in the South China Sea. The China Daily said that Mattis “dispersed the clouds of war that many feared were gathering over the South China Sea.”

Beijing believes that Mattis adds a “dose of predictability the bilateral relationship badly needs.”

Speaking in Tokyo, Japan, Mattis said Saturday that the U.S. will not make “dramatic military moves” in the South China Sea. Instead, he called for diplomacy.

“At this time, we do not see any need for dramatic military moves at all,” he explained, “What we have to do is exhaust all efforts — diplomatic efforts — to try and resolve this properly, maintaining open lines of communication.”

Mattis appeared to clarify and walk back Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s statements that the U.S. military would block China’s access to the artificial islands constructed in the South China Sea and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s claims that the U.S. would stop China from taking over the sea.

The state-run China Daily said that Mattis offered Beijing a “mind-soothing pill.”

Mattis noted that freedom of navigation operations will continue. “Freedom of navigation is absolute, and whether it be commercial shipping or our U.S. Navy, we will practice in international waters and transit international waters as appropriate,” he explained. China used to dealing with FONOPS though.

China is still concerned that the comfort provided by Mattis’s words may be fleeting given President Donald Trump’s love of unpredictable behavior.

“It is too early for Chinese decision-makers to sit back and relax, because this may not remain the case as Trump has already shown he is no fan of predictability,” the China Daily explained.

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