"The US will continue to pursue a constructive, results-oriented relationship with China, cooperation whenever possible will be the name of the game and competing vigorously where we must. of course we recognise any sustainable Indo-Pacific order has a role for China", he said.
China's hostility towards self-ruled Taiwan has grown since Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party won presidential elections on the island in 2016.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis delivers his speech during the first plenary session of the 17th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-la Dialogue, an annual defense and security forum in Asia, in Singapore, Saturday, June 2, 2018, in Singapore.
The remarks come amid growing discord between China and the U-S over the disputed waters and islands.
China has sent a relatively low-level delegation to this year's Shangri-La forum, and there is now no Chinese official scheduled to give the traditional Sunday speech to the gathering, in what had become an outlet for a riposte to the U.S. But he also said that Beijing's strategy contrasted sharply with that of the U.S.
The defence secretary also confirmed the Pentagon was keen to help Taiwan defend itself, in comments that were likely to further anger China, which also claims the island.
Earlier in the week, Mattis warned the United States will continue "a steady drumbeat" of naval exercises to challenge China's territorial claims in the waterway, and this weekend said, "there are consequences that will continue to come home to roost" if China does not act more transparently and cooperatively in the region.
Friedberg, a professor of politics and global affairs at Princeton University and a former deputy assistant for national security affairs, said that Mr. Mattis's speech was probably meant to ease American allies' concerns not just about regional threats, but about President Trump's oft-changing foreign policy. "It is a symbol of China's sovereignty", the officer said.
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"Despite China's claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion", Mattis said, referring to the recent deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, electronic jammers and other equipment on the Spratly Islands, and the landing of bomber aircraft at Woody Island. "So that's where the security threat comes from for them", said Mintaro Oba, a former USA diplomat focused on Northeast Asia.
Delegates hoping for clarity on Trump's intentions for a scheduled June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim did not get much from Mattis, though he said the issue of the permanent deployment of about 28,5000 USA troops in South Korea will not be "on the table". China protested the maneuver. President Donald Trump on Friday said the summit will take place June 12.
The previous week the USA had withdrawn an invitation for Beijing to participate in the exercise known as Rim of the Pacific.
The Pentagon said the decision to disinvite the Chinese Navy was triggered by what it called strong evidence that China has deployed weapons systems on the islands, and called on China to remove them.
Mattis only made a glancing reference to North Korea, reiterating that it was a diplomatically led effort and the objective remained the "complete verifiable, and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula".
In recent years, the USA had sought to stabilize military relations with China, but the militarization of the islands has been a persistent point of conflict.
China has not sent high-level officials to the Shangri-La conference.
A Chinese general on Saturday, June 2, lashed out at "irresponsible comments" on Beijing's military build-up in the South China Sea after the United States defense chief accused China of intimidation and coercion in the disputed waters.