Mattis cancels China trip after Chinese, US Navy destroyers almost collide

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The Chinese defence ministry said it opposes the United States warship's entry into the waters "around China's islands and reefs".

The incident came just a few days after China abruptly canceled a meeting between Secretary of Defense James Mattis and his Chinese counterpart.

The vice president delivered his speech as Bloomberg News reported that during their construction in China, tiny microchips were hidden in computer motherboards sold to major USA companies such as Amazon and Apple that allowed hackers to access any network that included the altered equipment. "Beijing is also trying to project its power farther than ever before", Mr. Pence will say, adding that "we will not be intimidated; we will not stand down".

USA defense officials told The Associated Press on Monday that Mattis has dropped plans to visit China amid rising tensions between Beijing and Washington.

"In one recent example, they threatened to deny a business license for a major USA corporation if it refused to speak out against our administration's policies", Pence will say.

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China condemned the United States for its operations in the South China Sea, where China is attempting to bolster its claims through increased militarization. The last-minute cancellation of the unannounced trip has not been publicly confirmed by the Pentagon.

Relations between the United States and China have deteriorated over an escalating trade dispute, but ties have worsened in recent weeks after a United States decision to issue economic sanctions over Beijing's purchase of Russian fighter jets and surface-to-air missile equipment. In past years, military ties have been somewhat stable but a series of events this year have roiled the waters.

Ankit Panda, a foreign-policy expert who is a senior editor at The Diplomat, called the incident "the PLAN's most direct and unsafe attempt to interfere with lawful US Navy navigation in the South China Sea to date".

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.

Leaked aerial photos taken by the US Navy show how close a Chinese destroyer came to colliding with an American warship during a tense face-off in the disputed South China Sea. But Beijing vehemently objects to US ships sailing within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) of the outposts.

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Gaven Reef is located in the Spratly Islands chain in the South China Sea where China claims seven man-made islands as its own.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence delivers a speech at the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA) in Washington, U.S., August 24, 2018.

Beijing and Washington are locked in a trade war in which they have imposed increasingly severe rounds of tariffs on each other's imports. USA officials verified the pictures to CNN.

China once brushed aside US accusations of "militarizing" the South China Sea - something the country's leader, Xi Jinping, vowed publicly not to do during an appearance with President Barack Obama in 2015. The U.S. action relates to China's purchase from Russian Federation of Su-35 combat aircraft last year and S-400 surface-to-air missile system-related equipment this year.

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