Updated Jun 2, 2018

Mattis slams China's militarization of South China Sea

Defence Secretary James Mattis delivers speech in Singapore. Photo: ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images

Speaking at the annual regional security conference, the Shangri-La Dialogue, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis criticized China's ongoing militarization of the controversial islands in the South China Sea saying that its placement of weapons "is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion."

Why it matters: Mattis added that China's moves are "in stark contrast to the openness our strategy promotes," and question "China’s broader goals." Mattis’ comment comes on the heels of efforts from the U.S. "to navigate increased tensions with Beijing, even as the Trump administration seeks Chinese help in curbing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions," reports the New York Times.

Timing: The Times adds that "Mattis recently disinvited the Chinese military from a large, multinational naval exercise this summer due in part to China’s positioning of those weapons, including antiship and surface-to-air missiles, on the Spratly Islands."

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The novel coronavirus has spread from China to infect people in more than 40 countries and territories around the world, killing over 2,700 people.

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Debate night: Candidates' last face-off before Super Tuesday

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Sen. Bernie Sanders wanted to keep his momentum after winning contests in New Hampshire and Nevada, while former Vice President Joe Biden hoped to keep his own campaign alive. The other five candidates were just trying to hang on.

What's happening: Seven contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination were in Charleston, South Carolina, for the tenth debate, just days before the South Carolina primary and a week before Super Tuesday. They spoke, sometimes over each other, about health care, Russian interference in the election, foreign policy the economy, gun control, marijuana, education, and race.

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4 takeaways from the South Carolina debate

Former Vice President Joe Biden, right, makes a point during Tuesday's Democratic presidential debate, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders listens. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The 10th Democratic debate was billed as the most consequential of the primary thus far, but Tuesday night's high-stakes affair was at times awkward and unfocused as moderators struggled to rein in candidates desperate to make one last splash before Saturday's primary in South Carolina and Super Tuesday.

The big picture: After cementing himself as the Democratic favorite with a sweeping win in Nevada, Sen. Bernie Sanders came under fire as the front-runner for the first time on the debate stage. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who will be on the ballot for the first time next Tuesday, was a progressive foil once again, but he appeared more prepared after taking a drubbing at the Nevada debate.