Turnbull said the region wanted to see China take a responsible leadership role or risk becoming isolated.
Mattis is expected to meet his counterparts from a number of countries including South Korea, Japan and Australia.
But in May, Beijing and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) took a step towards easing friction over the sea, agreeing to a framework for a “code of conduct” to prevent incidents in the disputed waters.
“We can not accept Chinese actions that impinge on the interests of the global community, undermining the rules-based order that has benefitted all countries represented here today, including and especially China”, he said, adding that US-China competition does not mean conflict is inevitable.
“The United States is a longtime Pacific power”, she said.
Without mentioning Moon’s name, Pyongyang said the two countries were now at a “crossroad”, adding “either we choose to embark on a track of improving relations or repeat the vicious cycle of confrontation”.
Tillerson reiterated U.S. and Australian commitment to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea to “ensure unimpeded flow of lawful commerce in a rules-based order”.
He Lei said, “It is well-known that the Charter of the United Nations is the most important worldwide rule”.
After meeting with President Xi Jinping in April, Trump, who once accused China of “raping” the U.S., praised its leader as a “good man”, saying it would be inappropriate to pressure Beijing while Washington is seeking its help with Pyongyang.
China on Sunday expressed strong dissatisfaction with and firm opposition to “irresponsible remarks” made by the U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada on the South China Sea and Taiwan issues during the just concluded Shangri-La Dialogue. An Australian questioner asked, in light of Trump’s abandonment of an worldwide trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and his withdrawal from the Paris climate deal, “why should we not fret that we are present at the destruction of” a global rules-based order?
“If it was his speech on its own, I think I would be reassured. With that leverage comes the greatest responsibility”, he said. That holds true, he said, despite deep frustration among some of them that their nation has been asked at times to shoulder an “inordinate burden” on the world stage. Another wondered if he could be trusted given his “America First” pronouncements.
“China is a significant economic and trading power”.
David Helvey, assistant USA defense secretary for Asian affairs, told reporters traveling with Mattis prior to the Singapore speech that the emphasis would be placed on North Korea. But he provided no specifics and said it was part of a mandate pressed by the US Congress.
As many in Asia question the durability of the United States’ long-standing security role in the region, one veteran military commander is reassuring old allies and newer friends that nothing has changed.
Some, however, are not as anxious, noting that the president has only been in office for several months and that the frequent visits his officials have made to the region highlight a continued commitment to the region.
“We discussed regional co-operation in areas of maritime disputes, notably, the South China Sea”, Bishop said on Monday.
Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Republican from Texas and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told a news conference later that he believed Mattis had effectively stressed the US commitment to allies in the Asia-Pacific region.
Thornberry recently introduced legislation in the House that if approved, would authorize $2.1 billion in spending for the Asia Pacific for capacity building, military training and munitions.
“For example, we recognise India, the most populous democracy in the world, as a major defence partner”.