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South China sea crisis: Conflict fears SURGE over plot to confront ‘destabilising’ China

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Mark Esper, the US Secretary of Defence, and Japan’s defence minister Taro Kono met in Guam on Saturday. The two reiterated their opposition to any attempt to “unilaterally changing the status quo by force” in the South China Sea.

ijing claims control of much of the South China Sea, the world’s busiest shipping lane.

However its claims overlap with those of no fewer than six other countries.

To strength its position China has been building military facilities, including airports, on natural and artificial islands in the contested territory.

Following the meeting with his US counterpart at Andersen Air Force Base Mr Kono help an online press conference where he praised the US-Japanese alliance.

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The US and Japan are looking to strengthen their alliance (Image: GETTY)

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China has been building artificial islands in the South China Sea (Image: GETTY)

He commented: “As for the South and East China seas, we confirmed that Japan and the United States will strongly oppose countries unilaterally changing the status quo by force.”

Mr Kono added Mr Esper had insisted Washington’s pledge to defend Japan includes the Japanese controlled East China Sea islets, which are currently under Tokyo’s control but claimed by Beijing.

On Wednesday China test fired four ballistic missiles in the South China Sea.

Mr Kone condemned the move which he warned could further destabilise the already volatile region.

READ MORE: China launches missile attacks on ‘troublemaker’ US as war fears surge

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A Chinese base in the South China Sea (Image: GETTY)

Mr Esper added: “We are steadfast in our opposition to Beijing’s destabilising activities in the region.”

The US, and other western powers, frequently send warships on ‘freedom of navigation’ patrols through the South China Sea to illustrate they reject Beijing’s claim of sovereignty.

During their meeting Mr Esper and Mr Kone also agreed to work towards establishing a joint missile defence system for Japan.

The Japanese government pulled out of a previous plan, the Aegis Ashore missile defence system, back in June.

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Protest against Beijing’s claim over the South China Sea (Image: GETTY)

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Japan’s constitution forbids it to engage in foreign wars (Image: GETTY)

This was intended to defend against North Korea but the Japanese had concerns about its cost and safety.

Japan is expected to outline a new missile defence system policy in September.

This month Japan’s governing Liberal Democratic Party, which includes Mr Kone, submitted a proposal allowing Japan to possess “the ability to intercept ballistic missiles and others even in the territory of an opponent”.

Critics claim this would undermine Japan’s war-averse constitution.

During their meeting Mr Kono and Mr Esper also pledged to boost cooperation in outer space, electronic warfare and cyberspace.

Earlier this week Mr Kone met General John Raymond, US Chief of Space Operations, for the first time since President Trump created the Space Force as a new branch of the American military last year.

Seperately former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has warned of a possible US-Chinese clash ahead of November’s presidential election.

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The US military has been conducting ‘freedom of navigation’ patrols through the contested area (Image: GETTY)

Addressing Melbourne’s La Trobe University he said there was a possibility of “conflict through miscalculation and escalation”.

The statesman added: “There’s a real danger that with a collapsing diplomatic relationship and an erosion of all forms of political capital between the two countries in their bilateral relationship.

“If you have an incident of a ship colliding with another ship, an aircraft colliding with another aircraft…then you have a crisis with an aircraft down or a ship as to what then happens.”



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