Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Tuesday he plans to visit China this year as Washington takes a tougher stance on Beijing in the controversial South China Sea.
Esper said he had spoken to his Chinese counterpart several times and hoped to make the trip by the end of the year.
He told a security seminar that one of the goals of the trip would be "to establish the systems necessary for crisis communication and to reaffirm our intention to compete openly in the international system to which we all belong".
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that the United States would treat Beijing's quest for resources in the South China Sea as illegal, increase support for Southeast Asian nations with rival claims, and trigger an angry Beijing response.
It was President Donald Trump's recent haunting statement by the government to challenge China, which he increasingly viewed as an enemy before the November elections.
"We make it clear: Beijing's claims to offshore resources in most of the South China Sea are completely illegal, as is its bullying campaign to control it," Pompeo said in a statement.
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