A Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman said Tuesday that its warship was simply defending Chinese sovereignty in the Spratlys, where Beijing has built up fortifications on man-made islands that were once small reefs.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence delivers a speech at the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA) in Washington, U.S., August 24, 2018. The two countries have imposed increasingly severe rounds of tariffs on each other's imports.
Just last week Beijing canceled a Washington visit by the head of its navy and denied a request for a U.S. Navy ship to make a port visit next month at Hong Kong.
The US disregard of China's claims over the disputed waters, through which trillions of dollars-worth of trade passes annually, is being demonstrated amid unprecedented tensions between the world's two largest economies.
The speech, which will likely strain relations further, came days after a Chinese military vessel almost collided with a US Navy ship in the waters around the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. The operation was conducted to 'uphold the rights and freedoms of all states under global law.
"We demand the parties concerned stop fabricating and spreading rumours", she said. We will not be intimidated.
In his speech Thursday, the U.S. vice president repeated claims that Beijing is using billions of dollars in infrastructure loans to countries across the world to tie them to the Chinese government, a practice termed "debt diplomacy".
He will also argue that Chinese officials have tried to influence business leaders to condemn U.S. trade actions, "leveraging their desire to maintain their operations in China". The plan, derived from the National Defense Strategy and assertions that the United States is once again in an age of great power competition with Russian Federation and China, is still under consideration and will require input from the intelligence community on possible reactions from Beijing and other worldwide actors.
In a speech laden with red flags for the Chinese leadership, Pence will also say that Taiwan's embrace of democracy "shows a better path for all the Chinese people".
The Chinese navy's actions forced the Decatur to maneuver to avoid a collision, a spokesman for the Pacific Fleet, Capt. Charlie Brown, said in a statement.
"Beijing has mobilized covert actors, front groups, and propaganda outlets to shift Americans' perception of Chinese policies", Mr. Pence will say. Separately, two B-52s also flew over the East China Sea, where China has declared an air defense identification zone and claims uninhabited islands controlled by Japan.
Mattis this week acknowledged "tension points" between the USA and China, but told reporters he did not "see it getting worse".