Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is as mercurial as Trump: He has in the past threatened to ride a jetski to disputed islands in the South China Sea and plant a flag to keep China at bay but he also claimed to be Chinese as part of his ongoing flattery of the Chinese leadership.
Mattis said the us will continue those operations.
Reuters first reported that two U.S. Navy warships sailed near South China Sea islands claimed by China on Sunday, prompting anger in Beijing, which claims most of the strategic waters where Chinese, Japanese and some Southeast Asian navies operate.
"At the proper time, we will take full advantage of the tribunal ruling, even as China refuses to recognize this, to serve as basis for the country's exercise of sovereignty and jurisdiction over features that are in the Philippine territorial waters", Esperon said.
He says American ships are maintaining a "steady drumbeat" of naval operations around disputed islands, and "only one country" seems to be bothered by the vessels' activities.
Never one to shy away from his thoughts on an issue, Secretary of Defense James Mattis vowed on Tuesday that the US would keep confronting China over its aggressive territorial claims.
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"What I do think we're seeing at this time is a conscious effort by Beijing to put pressure on counter-claimants, namely Vietnam, to discourage them from having any hope these disputed territories could one day move to their de facto control".
Esperon assured that the government is not remiss in finding diplomatic approaches to address issues over the South China Sea, officially recognized in the country as the West Philippine Sea.
Mattis said, the USA will maintain a "steady drum beat" in the South China Sea to "confront" China for actions that Washington deems to "be out of step with global law" and worldwide tribunal rulings.
Political analyst and youtuber Black Pigeon Speaks explains why the investment that China is making to militarize the region is only useful for psychological and propagandistic purposes, and would serve nearly no strategic value if directly challenged by the US military.
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.
"(The sailings) contravened Chinese and relevant worldwide law, seriously infringed upon Chinese sovereignty (and) harmed strategic mutual trust between the two militaries", he said.
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China said it has dispatched warships to identify and warn off the U.S. vessels. "China's landing of bomber aircraft at Woody Island has also raised tensions", Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Logan told reporters then.
China is facing increasing tension with the United States and its neighbours over the South China Sea issue.
He added that the area was regarded as global waters and many countries wanted to exercise their freedom of navigation.
"China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States", Adm. Philip Davidson, the new head of U.S. Pacific Command, said in April.
China's claim over the South China Sea is different from its neighbors' interpretations. He will be replaced by Admiral Philip Davidson.
Mattis is expected to have strong words for China when he travels to Singapore for the Shangri-la dialogue, a security forum, later this week.
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The current head, Admiral Harry Harris, has been nominated to be the new ambassador to South Korea.