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Chinese structures are seen in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in April last year.   © Reuters
The Big Story

Shifting US policy leaves Asian allies at sea

Trump's 'America first' attitude plays into China's hands

SIMON ROUGHNEEN, Asia regional correspondent | China

SINGAPORE -- China has long bristled at the U.S. Navy’s “freedom of navigation operations” in the South China Sea, which challenge Beijing’s territorial claims in the disputed waters. So when Zhao Xiaozhuo, a senior colonel in the Chinese army, found himself with a chance to complain about them directly to U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis recently, he took it.

The U.S. operations are a “violation of the law of the People's Republic of China, of territorial waters,” Zhao told Mattis during a conference in Singapore on June 2.

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