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US Pentagon chief sees no need for military moves in South China Sea

FILE - In this Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017 file photo, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis answers questions during the joint press conference with Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo. On his first trip to Asia as secretary of defense, Mattis ruled out a military response to China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea but promised to continue with freedom of navigation operations to oppose Beijing’s occupation of disputed islands. "At this time, we do not see any need for dramatic military moves at all," Mattis told reporters in Tokyo, emphasizing the need for diplomacy. AP/Eugene Hoshiko, File

MANILA, Philippines — There is no need for the United States to make "dramatic" military moves in the disputed South China Sea as Beijing nearly completes its facilities in the region, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said.

Mattis noted that the US will exhaust all diplomatic efforts to properly address the longstanding maritime dispute.

"And certainly our military stance should be one that reinforces our diplomats in this regard," Mattis said in Tokyo last Saturday.

The US Defense secretary, however, noted that China has "shredded the trust of nations in the region" following its land reclamation activities in the South China Sea.

Mattis stressed that the resolving disputes should involve playing by the rules and not by taking military means.

"We don't settle them by taking military means and occupying land that is subject to question, to say the least about who actually owns it, or is it international waters," Mattis said.

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American military stance would be one that reinforces diplomats in resolving the issue, the US Defense Secretary said.

"But there is no need right now at this time for military maneuvers or something like that, that would solve something that's best solved by the diplomats," the Defense Secretary said.

US Secretary State Rex Tillerson earlier said that there is a need to send a clear signal against China's island-building activities in the disputed waters.

In his confirmation hearing before the US Senate last month, Tillerson said that China's actions are "extremely worrisome."

The Trump administration had vowed to defend territories that are in international waters including those in the South China Sea.

RELATED: Experts: Too late to stop China from dominating South China Sea

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