China has legitimate right to deploy military facilities in S

A reef in Spratly islands one of the disputed locations in the South China Sea

Mattis emphasized that the USA military wants more transparency from China.

The defence ministers of France and Britain said on Sunday during the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore that they will deploy warships to the South China Sea, in order to challenge Beijing's expanding military presence in the disputed waters.

French Defence Minister Florence Parly called on countries to abide by global law in the South China Sea, saying that France would persistently object to the creation of any claim to de facto sovereignty of the islands there.

He said Asia can only prosper under the rule of law, and stressed the importance of a rule-based worldwide order.

"Vietnam pursues a defensive and peaceful defense policy, does not take sides with one country against another country; does not use force for threaten the use of force", he said.

China's actions have triggered criticism by US Defense Secretary James Mattis, who said the deployment of military hardware, including anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles and electronic jammers, calls into question China's "broader goals".

China has built artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, and the USA military says there is a high possibility that China has installed anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles, as part of military exercises.

Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang also said the sides remain in contact over a possible visit to China by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at a date yet to be announced.

But speaking at the same conference, China's Lt Gen He Lei said: "Any irresponsible comments from other countries can not be accepted".

Mattis said the Pentagon will "hold the line" and support the diplomatic effort to secure the "complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula". Tensions increased in recent years and China has backed its claim with island-building and patrols.

But he also said the US welcomes cooperation with China "wherever possible", and announced that he has accepted Beijing's invitation to visit soon.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, who was attending the conference, said China is alienating other nations and nations must band together and say the actions are unacceptable.

In May, the Chinese military landed nuclear-capable bombers on its artificial islands for the first time.

He also asserted the islands belong to China and that Beijing is simply acting to defend the country's sovereignty.

In maintaining regional peace and security, observers say, China has played a crucial role by upholding its concept of a comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. China protested the maneuver.

Just last week, the United States renamed its Pacific Command the "Indo-Pacific Command", a term that reflects the subtle shifting and upgrading of US defense strategy in the region.

While the operation had been planned months in advance, and similar operations have become routine, it came at a particularly sensitive time and just days after the Pentagon withdrew an invitation to China for a major USA -hosted naval drill.

Despite his criticism, Gen Mattis added that the USA would "continue to pursue a constructive, results-oriented relationship with China" with "co-operation whenever possible".

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