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China has a "sovereign and legal right for China to place our army and military weapons there", he said, "We see any other country that tries to make noise about this as interfering in our internal affairs". He is also the head of the Chinese delegation to the dialogue, which opened in Singapore on Friday and runs through Sunday.

Without specifically mentioning the South China Sea, Williamson warned that "increasingly aggressive states infringing regional access, freedoms and security through coercion" are threatening the rules-based order.

The Chinese Defense Ministry condemned the USA actions, saying that the warships had violated the Chinese sovereignty, undermined strategic mutual trust, peace and security in the South China Sea.

Those who cry out against militarization are actually those who are actually undertaking militarization in the South China Sea, the senior Chinese military official said.

Mr Carr supported comments made by Defence Minister Marise Payne overnight at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual defence and security summit.

Addressing the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on Saturday, Minister Lich said: "The peaceful means of dialogue, instead of confrontation, the threat to use force or unilateral action, is really the best solution, which can resolve multiple issues on the basis of common interest, respect for worldwide laws and regional institutions".

Despite frequent warnings from Washington about China's rising might and the pitfalls of its "Belt and Road" global infrastructure initiative, Beijing has faced few consequences for its South China Sea build-up and sweeping territorial claims.

China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Brunei all have competing claims to the territory.

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The current situation in the South China Sea has calmed down visibly as a result of the joint efforts of China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, he said.

A US pledge to keep sailing navy vessels through the disputed South China Sea, which Beijing calls its own, could spark a military escalation that may hurt the interests of Southeast Asian states, analysts say.

Reuters first reported the patrol last month in which two US Navy warships sailed near South China Sea islands claimed by China, even as US President Donald Trump sought Chinese cooperation on North Korea.

The Shangri-La Dialogue 2018, or 17th Asia Security Summit, was launched in 2002 by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a British think tank, and the Singaporean government.

Beijing has deployed a range of military hardware including anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles and electronic jammers across the South China Sea, where it has built islets and other maritime features into hardened military facilities, Mattis said.

"Our objective remains the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula".

Last week, the US withdrew an invitation for Beijing's participation in naval exercises known as the Rim of the Pacific.

He also asserted the islands belong to China and that Beijing is simply acting to defend the country's sovereignty. Tensions increased in recent years and China has backed its claim with island-building and patrols. Airstrips have already been constructed, and in May, China landed nuclear capable bombers on contested islands in the area.