US Defense Secretary Mattis to visit China?



US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis could visit China in the near future amid military tensions between the two countries over the South China Sea.

"The Chinese and the US defense establishments are coordinating Secretary Mattis' visit to China," Ren Guoqiang, spokesman of China's Ministry of National Defense, said at a regular press conference on Thursday. "Other exchange programs between the two militaries are also proceeding smoothly."

Mattis' possible visit comes after the US Navy conducted a new round of the so-called "Freedom of navigation" operations in the neighboring waters of relevant islands and reefs of China's Nansha Qundao in the South China Sea.

Senior Colonel Ren Guoqiang, spokesman of China's Ministry of National Defense, answers reporters' questions at a regular press conference in Beijing, March 29, 2018.

Commenting on the operations, Ren reiterated that China has "indisputable sovereignty over relevant islands and their adjacent waters in the South China Sea."

China resolutely opposes the US action, as they harm military relations between the two countries, causing close encounters between the countries' air forces and navies, which could lead to misjudgment and even accidents, Ren said.

"The Chinese military will strengthen its defense capability according to the degree of the threat to its sovereignty and security, firmly safeguard national sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, and firmly safeguard regional peace and stability," he added.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (R2) and South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo visit the truce village of Panmunjom in South Korea, October 27, 2017.

Japanese media cited the Pentagon in January as saying Mattis could visit China in spring.

It would be Mattis' first visit to China since Donald Trump became US president. The defense secretary has made several tours of Asia, including trips to Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia and Afghanistan. But he did not accompany Trump on his state visit to Beijing last November.