By Patricia Lourdes Viray
MANILA, Philippines — US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis made it clear to Beijing that Washington's position on the South China Sea remains unchanged during a security dialogue between the two countries.
Tillerson and Mattis hosted Chinese foreign policy chief Yang Jiechi and Gen. Fang Fenghui, chief of the People’s Liberation Army’s joint staff department, for the first session of the US-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue in Washington.
Tillerson said he and Mattis had a frank exchange of views on the disputed waters with the Chinese leaders.
"We oppose changes to the status quo of the past through the militarization of outposts in the South China Sea and excessive maritime claims unsupported by international law, and we uphold the freedom of navigation and overflight," Tillerson said in a press conference.
Mattis said that they also discussed the importance of freedom of navigation, peaceful resolution of maritime disputes and ways to decrease tension in the South China Sea.
The Pentagon chief stressed that the US will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.
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