Japan holds evacuation drill amid tension from N. Korea

North Korean coal exports dropped to zero in April, a United Nations report showed Sunday, as the worldwide community puts pressure on the reclusive regime to give up its nuclear and long-range missile programs. "Ultimately, we believe China will come to recognize North Korea as a strategic liability, not an asset".

The U.N. Security Council first imposed sanctions on Pyongyang in 2006 over its ballistic missile and nuclear programs and has ratcheted up the measures in response to five nuclear tests and two long-range missile launches.

The US Navy on May 25 conducted a "freedom of navigation" operation in the South China Sea, when the USS Dewey guided-missile destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands.

The U.N. Security Council on Friday expanded targeted sanctions against North Korea after its repeated missile tests, adopting the first such resolution agreed upon by the United States and China since President Trump took office.

"Artificial island construction and indisputable militarisation of facilities on features in global waters undermine regional stability", Mattis said, calling China out over its "disregard for worldwide law" and "contempt for other nations' interests".

"While competition between the USA and China, the world's two largest economies, is bound to occur, conflict is not inevitable", Mattis said. "We can not and will not accept unilateral, coercive changes to the status quo".

However, he reiterated the US' willingness to work closely with China diplomatically and economically, and to build a constructive, result-oriented and mutually beneficial relationship.

He was unrelentingly critical of North Korea, a politically and economically isolated nation whose leaders have long viewed the U.S.as a military threat, in part because of periodic USA military exercises with South Korea, which the North sees as preparations for attacks aimed at destroying its ruling elite. In a question-and-answer session with his audience of national security experts from across the globe, Mattis was asked whether the USA might attack the North pre-emptively and without warning South Korea in advance.

"There's a sense that USA engagement in Asia under the Trump administration is very military heavy and that following the collapse of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and with a proposed budget cut to the State Department of 30 per cent, there are questions both in Canberra and the region about the nature of U.S. engagement in Asia", he said.

During a visit to Sydney this week, veteran Republican Senator John McCain accused China of being a "bully" and suggested Australia consider joining the United States and other Asia Pacific neighbours in future patrols. "As a matter of national security, the United States regards the threat from North Korea as a clear and present danger".

The issue arose briefly during questions from his audience, but Mattis did not address it directly.

Longstanding partners are also mortified that Trump has seemed indifferent to traditional alliances, and have interpreted his pulling out of a trans-Pacific trade deal and the Paris climate accords as signs of broader American disengagement.

"Like it or not, we're part of the world", he said.

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